In heart of Silicon Valley, a chance to spot health gaps #ahcj15

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at determinants@healthjournalism.org.

Silicon Valley is the place of tech dreams and data wonders. But the city – one of the nation’s wealthiest areas – is also home to underlying health gaps. So perhaps it’s a fitting place to also examine the haves-and-have-nots of health care at AHCJ’s annual conference this week.

Sheree Crute

Sheree Crute

On Saturday, presenters will discuss how an area can suffer from health disparities when it comes to what care patients receive and how. In the session, “One Community, Two Worlds: Reporting on Health Inequality,” Luisa Buada, a registered nurse and chief executive of Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, California, and Sarah Reyes, regional program manager for The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, will join San Jose Mercury News reporter Tracy Seipel to guide journalists in understanding such gaps.

Topics include everything from providing care to the homeless and the working uninsured to how policy issues such as wages, education and politics in California’s Central Valley region can impact health for low-income populations, according to Sheree Crute, a former AHCJ board member who will moderate the panel.

“Income inequality and health is increasingly an issue that touches Americans all over the country,” said Crute, an independent journalist based in New York. Attendees hopefully will “come away with a new perspective on how economic circumstances affect health … (and) new ways to tell the story in their own work,” she said.

While the session will feature presenters from California, the lessons and instruction will be linked to examples in other parts of the country and similar situations in other major cities, Crute added.

And while there will be no shortage of sessions looking at the latest in health tech and data, other sessions at AHCJ’s conference in Silicon Valley will also explore often overlooked aspects of care.

On Thursday, University of Washington professor Ali Mokdad will examine how to find local alcohol use data.

On Friday, Mary Otto, AHCJ’s core topic leader for Oral Health, will lead a panel, called “The Dental Desert: Investigating Barriers to Oral Health Access,” with experts from the University of the Pacific, advocacy group The Children’s Partnership and the American Dental Association. Another Friday session will focus on Latinos and healthcare, with panelists from the University of California at Los Angeles, Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program and the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California addressing health issues amid the Affordable Care Act and efforts to overhaul the U.S. immigration system. Other sessions on Friday will focus on “Measuring the Health of Cities and States, Countries and Continents,” looking at demographics and other factors that can help health journalists gain a big picture, veterans’ health issues and Medicaid data.

In addition to Crute’s panel on inequity, a Saturday session led by Drew Altman , Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation chief executive, will explore the role of philanthropy in health, on a panel that includes experts from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the California HealthCare Foundation and Missouri Foundation for Health. Another session will address mental health.

The full roster of conference sessions is available online. Advance registration has closed but onsite registration will be available. The conference opens Wednesday night and runs through Sunday.

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