Author Archives: Melba Newsome

About Melba Newsome

Melba Newsome is AHCJ's core topic leader for health equity and a veteran freelance journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. Her health and science features have appeared in Health Affairs, Oprah, Prevention, Scientific American, Chemical & Engineering News and North Carolina Health News.

New tip sheet: The impact of climate change on health equity

Photo by Dr. Matthias Ripp via Flickr

I have reported extensively on the COVID-19 pandemic with many of my stories highlighting health care disparities. I quickly noticed the intersection with environmental issues and climate change. Before long, I could barely write about one topic without writing about the other they were so intertwined.

When President Biden created the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) last summer, I realized I hadn’t made some brilliant discovery, I was simply catching up to what the public health and environmental thought leaders had known for some time. It’s hard to overstate the interconnections between climate change and health equity. The root causes and upstream drivers for both are often the same. 

This is an opportune time for journalists who aren’t already doing so to begin reporting on climate change as a health equity issue. 

When it comes to health inequities or preventable differences in health outcomes, climate change is one of the biggest public health threats today. The consequences of this global phenomenon impacts places, people and communities at the local level with low-wealth communities and communities of color caring a substantially higher burden.

The new climate change tip sheet includes research and studies to help journalists better understand the connection between health equity and climate change, resources, experts, organizations, suggested story ideas such as the impact on particular communities, as well as relevant terms and definitions. 

A national focus on health equity: important updates for reporters

Photo by IRRI Photos via Flickr

Social determinants are well-known factors in individual health outcomes, but the coronavirus pandemic appears to have created urgency in the White House and Congress to highlight and address health equity.

Shortly after being sworn in, President Joe Biden announced a new presidential-appointed position, the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and a National Climate Task Force. In one of his first executive orders, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Biden said he would elevate climate change and underscore the administration’s commitment to address it. Continue reading

Researcher and advocate for reproductive health equity tells her own story

Courtesy of Jallicia Jolly

When Jallicia Jolly gave birth to her first child, Rose, in February, she experienced some of the disparities in care she studies and writes about in her academic life.

Her essay published in USA Today, “I survived childbirth during three pandemics – COVID, racism, Black maternal health crisis,” places her own mistreatment at the hands of an anesthesiologist in the context of maternal health care across the country. “In looking back at my own experience giving birth to my healthy daughter, I am reminded of the stories of Black women who have received substandard care in health care systems and whose needs are deprioritized — and didn’t live to tell their own stories,” she writes. Continue reading

Matthew Ong delves into the many factors that contribute to inequities in cancer care

Matthew Ong

Matthew Ong

Matthew Ong is associate editor and an investigative reporter at The Cancer Letter, where his award-winning stories on the politics and business of cancer research have contributed to federal action and changes in public policy. Ong’s reporting has been recognized by the National Press Club, SPJ and eight other organizations.

Ong was selected as a 2021 AHCJ Health Performance Reporting Fellow to produce a series on the inequities in cancer care and its ruinous cost for many patients, particularly minorities,  and how these disparities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I spoke to Ong about the origin of the series and how he tackles such extensive, data-laden reporting and writing. Continue reading

Understand the political determinants of health when covering health equity

Photo: City of Detroit via Flickr

Natural disasters, wars, and pandemics amplify the health burden among people who are poor or marginalized. They also reveal the flaws in our health care system and expose the ways those inequities can hamper our ability to respond to a crisis.

In his book, “The Political Determinants of Health” (Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2020) and a video presentation to the AMA on Prioritizing Equity, Daniel Dawes makes a convincing case that social determinants of health like housing, transportation, education and access to care are the result of political decisions. Dawes is director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Continue reading