Author Archives: Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum

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About Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum

Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum (@mbirnbaumnews) is AHCJ's Health Equity Core Topic Leader. An independent journalist who has covered health disparities. Birnbaum’s stories have been published by WebMD, American Heart Association News, and American Indian, the magazine of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.

5 reports look at causes of health disparities in the U.S.

map showing redlining in Little Rock, Arkansas

This map of Little Rock, Ark. was issued by the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation. Historical records show that the red areas — which were rated as “hazardous” — were neighborhoods home to Black residents. According to population data lined to the map, Black Americans represented at least 30% of the population in some of those areas. Some worked in lumber plants, shops, and private homes as housekeepers, according to archival sources. Click the map for an interactive map showing how this practice, known as “redlining”, led to social vulnerability in those neighborhoods today.
Source: Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers, accessed May 10, 2023

Stories about health disparities — even ones about CDC statistics — need context about the social causes that contribute to them. Five academic reports about the history of laws and policies regulating key determinants of health offer those nuances. Critically, these reports expose how intentionally discriminatory legislation and regulation in housing, education, employment and other areas have influenced poor health outcomes in Americans of color — and may continue to for many years.

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3 tips to avoid spreading misinformation about trans people, mental illness and mass shootings

Photo by The Climate Reality Project’s via unsplash

In the aftermath of the shooting at a private school in Nashville that took the lives of three students and three teachers, there’s been an escalation of hateful rhetoric against trangender people, and some journalists have inadvertently contributed to it. Some reporters — in choosing to quote misinformed officials — have also validated the myth that people who live with mental illnesses may be more likely to be mass shooters. 

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How a press release sparked a story
about critical services for sexual assault survivors

Arielle Zionts

Arielle Zionts (Photo courtesy of Kaiser Family Foundation)

Soon after Arielle Zionts, a rural health reporter for Kaiser Health News, read a press release about telehealth services for sexual assault survivors living in the rural U.S, she was inspired to pursue a story about it. Her article, published in January 2023, also addresses the shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners, also known as SANEs, in those parts of the country.

In this “How I Did It”, Zionts explains how she found the sources for her story, some of the challenges she faced in her reporting and shares story ideas.

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Getting it right: Reporting on laws that prohibit gender- affirming care for minors 

Kellan Baker, executive director of Whitman-Walker Institute, (left); Emerald Habecker, an independent journalist (middle); Kim Walsh-Childers, panel moderator and professor of journalism at the University of Florida (Photo by Zachary Linhares)

As state legislatures continue to consider laws that would ban gender-affirming care options for transgender minors, journalists writing about them should stick to reporting about the science behind medical treatments, surgical procedures and other options, said panelists during the “Covering state bans on gender-affirming care for minors” session at Health Journalism 2023 in St. Louis.

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Playwright puts racism in health care on the stage

Harrison David Rivers

“Weathering,” a play that premiered last fall, takes on a public health crisis. The story centers on the grief that women carry after having a stillbirth, how they cope with it and why. But it also addresses the link between pervasive racism in health care and the concerning maternal and infant mortality rates in Black women that are much higher than those in their white counterparts. 

Harrison David Rivers, the playwright, said he was inspired to write a play that addressed the troubling trends after reading an article about the pregnancy and childbirth experiences of a young Black woman that was written by journalist and author Linda Villarosa. The play was commissioned by Penumbra Theatre, a stage company based in an African American neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. that was August Wilson’s home theater for several years.

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