Author Archives: Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at She welcomes questions and suggestions on resources and tip sheets at

HuffPost reporter, drawn by data, paints larger picture of hepatitis outbreak

Graphic courtesy of HuffPostLauren Weber and her colleagues recently tracked the increase in hepatitis A cases across the country, noting surges beyond California. What started off as a simple map soon drove a larger story about a growing national crisis.

It was supposed to be a simple map. But what started as a small graphics project at HuffPost soon transformed into a revealing piece on the nation’s hepatitis outbreaks.

Writer and editor Lauren Weber, who also runs HuffPost’s The Morning Email, and her colleague had been following the outbreak in San Diego. They built up their sources and kept pressing for more information, soon connecting the dots to other outbreaks outside of the one in California that had made national headlines. Continue reading

How Medicaid work rules could impact public health

Photo: 7_DSC9585dmitryzhkov via Flickr

The Trump administration opened the door to requiring work rules for recipients of Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled. While such changes will inevitably affect some people’s access to the government coverage, it remains unclear what impact it could have on their actual health.

New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz took a look to see if, just like with higher income, requiring work would improve health. Continue reading

For radio reporter, a Health Journalism 2017 panel comes to life

Photo courtesy of Avery Schneider, WBFOAvery Schneider, NPR member station WBFO’s lead health reporter, found useful inspiration in a Health Journalism 2017 panel on health disparities and costs. Months later, it led him to a barber shop in Western New York to report on how one program is targeting barber shops to expand access to cardiovascular health care.

In the midst of a conference, sometimes the story is hard to see – or hear.

But for one AHCJ member, Avery Schneider of Western New York’s WBFO, a panel discussion on the social determinants of health helped ignite a story idea months later when contacted about a new health program in the area. Continue reading

Signs of housing shortages in other cities evoke West Coast crisis

Photo: brian hefele via Flickr

The deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A in the country flaring in southern California stems from a confluence of factors, from a lack of affordable housing and accessible health care to a shortage of public restrooms. But could other cities across the country face a similar crisis?

In Washington, D.C., outdoor retailer REI recently launched a new flagship store in the eastern part of the nation’s capital. But just outside the store, in a gentrifying neighborhood about one mile north of the U.S. Capitol, a tent city has sprung up “along the underpasses squeezed between some of the newest money in town,” according to local columnist Petula Dvorak. Continue reading

CDC’s directive to avoid using “transgender,” and other words, triggers concerns

Photo: www.washingtonpost.comThis Washington Post’s story cited CDC staff who acknowledged that the agency was directed not to use certain words in fiscal 2018 budget documents.

A Washington Post article listing words reportedly prohibited for use by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in budget documents has some scientists worried, even as the agency’s director tried to smooth over the controversy.

A few days after the article appeared on December 15, U.S. health officials confirmed to the Post that they had sought to avoid using certain words, but insisted they were not outright banned. It is unclear which department or agency issued the initial directive, and the motive for the list is in dispute. Continue reading

OECD reports highlight gaps behind life expectancy gains

Chart: How’s Life 2017, www.oecd.orgA pair of recent reports published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development could offer health journalists some story ideas on disparities for 2018.

People on average are living longer, overall. However, a pair of recent reports from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) offers a closer look at the reasons for this improvement, including long-known disparities among groups that lead certain populations not to do as well. Continue reading