Author Archives: Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum

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 American Heart Association News and WebMD.

Reporting on disparities in HIV testing, PrEP

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

HIV trends don’t make headlines the way they used to. But we may see an influx of them in the coming months after news that a court ruling may allow insurance companies to cut back on coverage of preventive care.

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4 ways to ramp up your reporting on rural hospitals

From left to right: Sarah Jane Tribble, senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News and featured luncheon speaker Stephanie Boynton, F.A.C.H.E., vice president and chief executive officer of critical access hospitals for Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital.

When reporting on the state of rural medical facilities, there’s more to the story than the demand for health care services. Other factors influence the survival, closure, or changes to services offered by providers in more sparsely populated areas. The economic prosperity of those regions, for instance, appears to be tightly intertwined with the type and quality of care accessible to the people who live there — who tend to be in worse health than their urban peers.

That was among the potential story threads that emerged during a presentation at AHCJ’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2022 in Chattanooga earlier this month. Stephanie Boynton, F.A.C.H.E.,  featured luncheon speaker and vice president and CEO of critical access hospitals for Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital and Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital, talked about the impact of Erlanger Health System’s acquisition of facilities in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina.

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A growing demand for telehealth services in rural U.S.

The Walnut Street Pedestrian Bridge in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Photo courtesy of Margarita Martín-Hidalgo Birnbaum)

Americans living in rural areas are less likely to use telehealth services than urban residents. The reasons are not unique to them: they may have concerns about giving private information over the internet or don’t know how to find their way around technology. But slow internet speed and reliability problems appear to most affect access to telehealth services in those communities.

That suggests that people in those parts of the United States may not be getting access to quality health care in part because “if you are getting spotty access, you’re not going to have a real consult,” Sinsi Hernández-Cancio, J.D, a vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families. Hernández-Cancio said the demand for those telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic underscored the need to upgrade older telecommunications infrastructure in less dense areas of the United States and exposed technological shortcomings in telehealth and user barriers to it.

The state of internet services infrastructure was among the equity measures that health care experts discussed in “The truth about telemedicine: promise and limitations,” a panel at Rural Health Workshop 2022 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The daylong event held on July 14, 2022, included sessions about finding trend data on rural areas and efforts to recruit people to the nursing profession to serve less populated areas of the country.


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How to use health equity data to cover access to COVID‑19 rapid tests

Victoria Knight

When the Biden Administration rolled out two COVID-19 rapid tests programs in mid-January, Kaiser Health News reporters Victoria Knight and Hannah Recht were separately researching the initiatives, including one that allowed Americans to get free tests through the U.S. Postal Service. Their reporting included interviewing experts and gathering U.S. Census Bureau data about health equity measures such as home-based internet subscription rates. 

The behind-the-scenes reporting illustrates how some stories are rooted in social media serendipity and collaboration. In this “How I Did It,” Knight and Recht explain how the article came together and why the data they compiled suggested that millions of Americans — mainly Black, Hispanic and Native American, and Alaska Native people — could face significant challenges in getting the rapid tests. (The following conversation was edited for clarity and brevity.)

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New tip sheet explores health equity in reproductive health care

Photo by Diedre Smith, Navy Medicine via Flickr.

It may take months or years before we grasp the health-related ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling that makes it legal for states to ban and restrict abortion. But the existing health equity data about key reproductive health measures — including maternal mortality, birth control use, and abortion — offer clues and raise questions about the short- and long-term effects the decision will have on the quality of health of females from the country’s largest race and ethnic groups.

With those health topics in mind, we’re offering a new tip sheet with resources about unintended pregnancy, birth control use and abortion. These materials may help explain why trends aren’t solely the result of personal choices or cultural practices but also related to lingering distrust of a medical system rife with racist policies, socioeconomic bias among medical providers, availability of medical facilities, and other social and structural determinants of wellbeing. The reports, studies, and data we’re sharing will help you add more depth to stories about the implications of the Supreme Court ruling on a procedure that is an integral part of reproductive health care.

Disparities in reproductive health measures

In the process of gathering information to explain why non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women may be most affected by the decision, all roads lead to birth control data. The CDC authors of this 2021 report on abortion trends connect the dots between birth control use and unintended pregnancy and abortion patterns. More specifically, the report’s authors suggest that differences in quality family planning services, among other reasons, could explain why non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women of reproductive age are more likely than their non-Hispanic white counterparts to have unintended pregnancies and abortions. (see Figure 1)

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