Veteran reporter brings a fresh eye to the health beat

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Jeffrey Beall via FlickrSmall towns like Littleton, Colo., may have a lot of history and charm, but often few dental practices catering to low-income residents. David Olinger of The Denver Post recently wrote about how one foundation is attempting to change that situation.

Photo: Jeffrey Beall via FlickrSmall towns like Littleton, Colo., may have a lot of history and charm, but often few dental practices catering to low-income residents. David Olinger of The Denver Post recently wrote about how one foundation is attempting to change that situation.

The Delta Dental Foundation has come up with an innovative approach to bringing care to Colorado’s “dental deserts.”

The nonprofit has launched a $3.3 million initiative that has provided 16 medical organizations in the state with the funding to buy dental equipment and hire dental hygienists to bring oral health services to places where they have been hard to find. The initiative, called the Colorado Medical-Dental Integration Project is targeting communities such as Littleton, where on a recent day, 9-year-old Nathan Martin visited a local medical clinic to receive a dental checkup and preventive care from a dental hygienist.

Reporter David Olinger (@dolingerdp) brought the story alive for readers of The Denver Post. Olinger, who describes himself as a “veteran reporter new to the health care beat,” has worked at the newspaper since 1997. Over the years, he has produced award-winning pieces on the struggles of physically and mentally wounded soldiers who were sent back to combat, the state’s foreclosure crisis and the victimization of homeowners by predatory real estate investors. He also played a key role in the Post’s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Columbine High School massacre.

David Olinger

David Olinger

These days, amid reports on teen birth rates and the implications of the theft of the powerful narcotic drug fentanyl from a local hospital, Olinger regularly picks up on stories with oral health angles.

In this new Q and A, he talks about how he got interested in writing about Colorado’s dental deserts, the concerns that drove his coverage of a University of Colorado nutrition expert’s ties with Coca-Cola, and where he – and other reporters – might want to look when writing about the growing popularity of e-cigarettes.

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