Susan Heavey to lead AHCJ’s core topic on social determinants


Susan Heavey
Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, a journalist who covered health care regulation and policy before focusing on the intersection of health, poverty and demographics, will lead AHCJ’s core topic on social determinants and disparities in health.

Her goal is to  provide AHCJ members the resources they need to cover the root causes of health care gaps by writing blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other material.

While on the beat at Reuters, she wrote about everything from brain stimulation and clot-grabbing snake-like devices to drug safety and biosimilars. She also helped cover Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. Her work has appeared on, been picked up by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNBC and other outlets, and led news websites for Yahoo! and Google. She also previously wrote about health for and KidsHealth. 

Based in Washington, D.C., Heavey was a 2013 fellow at the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and previously with the National Institutes of Health/Dartmouth University “Medicine in the Media” program and the now-shuttered Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the  University of Maryland. She has also worked as an adjunct professor at American University’s School of Communications.

She will write tip sheets and background briefs, ask other journalists to share their experiences and she will curate lists of resources for journalists. Her blog posts for Covering Health will recognize important reporting on social determinants in health care and offer journalists insights into how disparities can affect many of the health issues we write about.

While there are hundreds of health and health care-related topics covered in news and feature stories every day, the Association of Health Care Journalists believes there is a core set of topics that today’s health journalists will need to master to cover the beat well. is home to thousands of pages of information, data and brilliant story examples. In an effort to curate this information into a curriculum of sorts for fellow journalists, we launched a Core Topic effort using “topic champions” – lead editors – from our membership to shape this material into practical guidance in covering stories on those topics.

Each specialty topic page includes glossaries, key concepts, reporting tip sheets, weekly blog items, first-person stories by fellow journalists, videos, data and more. Each topic home page serve as a launch pad to more resources, on and elsewhere. Joe Rojas-Burke served as AHCJ’s first social determinants core topic leader and helped launch the pages.

If you have suggestions for Heavey, questions you’d like to see answered or examples of things you’d like guidance on, please send them to or tweet them to @susanheavey.

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Pia Christensen