Reporter shares how to integrate effects of social determinants in health stories

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to or @rojasburke.

Rhiannon Meyers

Rhiannon Meyers

It’s easy to blame disadvantaged people for engaging in behaviors that put them at risk for developing diabetes.

Rhiannon Meyers, a reporter at The (Corpus Christi, Texas) Caller-Times, says that “Over and over again, I heard doctors blame our region’s high rates of diabetes and related complications on noncompliant patients unwilling to make the necessary changes to get healthy,” while she was reporting “Cost of Diabetes.”

But Meyers delved deeper and found there were environmental and social forces that contribute to higher rates of unhealthy behavior and illness. In the latest “Shared Wisdom,” she explains:

“What’s even more important for journalists than being able to explain these social determinants is understanding them well enough to ask the right questions and challenge those who dismiss chronic illness as strictly a matter of ‘personal responsibility,’ another phrase I heard often in this series.”

Read more about how she illustrated those underlying social and environmental factors for her readers and how that added richer context to her stories.

1 thought on “Reporter shares how to integrate effects of social determinants in health stories

  1. Robert C. Bowman, M.D.

    The same determinants that shape lower concentrations of clinicians also shape lower health outcomes. Smaller facilities and practices are finding themselves targeted by a number of cost cutting designs – providers that already have the thinnest margins or that are already cutting back on personnel.

    In other words, pay for performance, readmission penalties, and value based designs will result in a higher probability of penalty and highest penalty for providers caring for patients that already have the most barriers to care and the most complexities.

    The sad fact is that the various hospitals on the front lines of health access were known to have higher penalties due to lower income patients served – just one measure. But actually there are dozens of measures that indicate disparities and these layer in together to shape poor outcomes and now poor pay by design.

    Robert C. Bowman, M.D.
    Basic Health Access

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