Category Archives: Health equity

How to the tell the story of nurses of color experiencing racism at work

Nada Hassanein (Photo courtesy of Alicia Devine)

When Nada Hassanein read the press release about a survey that shed light on racism nurses of color are enduring in the workplace, she seized the opportunity to write a story to give real-world context to the findings. In telling the story, the environmental and health inequities reporter for USA Today, said she wanted to “weave [the survey results] into a kind of narrative about nurses’ experiences.”

In this “How I Did It,” Hassanein shares her reporting process for the story, talks about why leaning heavily on data may matter more for some stories over others, and offers tips for cultivating and building the trust that allows sources to open up about painful experiences.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. 

You get this press release and decide that there’s a bigger story here other than the survey. What was your next step? How did you find the sources for the story?

First, I asked the [National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing] if someone from the Commission — a nurse of color — would be willing to talk with me. And that nurse connected me with other nurses that are not part of the Commission.

How hard was it for nurses to be candid about their experiences?

The nurses I spoke with were quite open and candid about their experiences. I think they felt that someone was listening and, therefore, were willing to share their experiences.

How did you weave in context about the profession? 

I found demographic breakdowns of nursing staff or registered nurses in certain states to show how they are minorities or underrepresented. Being a health reporter, I see a lot of discussion about racism among physicians and residents but less so about nurses.

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Going beyond umbrella statistics when covering health in LGBTQ communities

Photo by Katherine GilyardDaniel Downer, executive director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, addresses attendees during the “Covering the LGBTQ+ communities: Anti-LGBTQ+ measures, COVID-19 and reporting insights” panel.

Reporters covering LGBTQ people are encouraged to go beyond umbrella statistics, become familiar with appropriate terminology and avoid framing stories in ways that further stigmatize the community. 

Those are just a few of the key takeaways from the  “Covering the LGBTQ+ communities: Anti-LGBTQ+ measures, COVID-19 and reporting insights” panel at Health Journalism 2022. The presentation also focused on health care inequities and discriminatory legislation like Florida’sDon’t Say Gay” bill. 

The panel — moderated by Naseem Miller, senior health editor for The Journalist’s Resource — also included Brad Sears, executive director and associate dean of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law,  Daniel Downer, executive director of The Bros in Convo Initiative, Dallas Ducar, CEO of Transhealth Northampton, and Jen Christensen, a CNN producer and immediate past president of the National Association of LGBTQ Journalists.  

Panelists urged reporters to get it right. “As health journalists, we have an opportunity to educate people in a really straightforward way,” said Christensen, “It’s exciting to think that you get a chance to talk about something a lot of your audience hasn’t heard about before.”

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With Roe likely in its final days, experts say reporters should sharpen focus on abortion as a health issue

Photo by Erica TricaricoSophie Novack (on the left) and Crystal S. Berry-Roberts, M.D. (on the right)

Pregnancy is a medical condition and abortion is an intervention for it, so journalists writing about the topic should take the same approach they would when writing about cancer, diabetes, and other conditions and treatments: focus on mortality risks, patients’ rights to care and bodily autonomy.

Reporters should also step up their game to explain what the medical community has known for decades: that abortion is a safe health care procedure.

These were among the topics covered by women’s reproductive health experts who participated in a round table discussion moderated by Brenda Goodman of CNN Health, about abortion on Saturday, April 30, at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin. The conversation took place two days before what appeared to be a leak of the Supreme Court’s opinion in Roe v. Wade was published by Politico. The opinion would overturn abortion protection under Roe v. Wade.


Check out the full transcript of the round table discussion.

The speakers at the “Women’s reproductive health in a post-Roe world” round table included Crystal S. Berry-Roberts, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist in Austin; Lisa Harris, M.D. Ph.D., an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan; Sonja Miller, interim managing director for Whole Woman’s Health Alliance; and Sophie Novack, an independent journalist who has reported on the implications of Texas laws restricting abortions. Continue reading

CMS Administrator Brooks-LaSure kicks off AHCJ 2022 in Austin

Photo by Paola RodriguezCMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), opened AHCJ’s Health Journalism 2022 conference on Thursday, April 28, with a keynote address highlighting the importance of health care and CMS’s efforts to foster greater equity, access, and value, and how much health care is integrated into the fabric of our society.

Check out the full video of her speech and Q&A.

In her remarks, Brooks-LaSure explained just how much health care is part of the fabric of our society. While many people have been touched by the health system, many are still left out. The Affordable Care Act — in which Brooks-LaSure played a key policy role in developing and implementing — has certainly transformed the health system. However, there’s still too much inequity and multiple challenges to address. Brooks-LaSure has put forth six pillars to guide the agency’s thinking about their work and to ensure CMS measures results to ensure they are pursuing initiatives that address underlying disparities in the health system.

 

Following her brief opening remarks, Brooks-LaSure answered questions from the audience. Reporters took advantage of the opportunity to probe issues including Medicaid expansion, maternal mortality and CMS’s controversial decision to cover the newly approved Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm only for those enrolled in clinical trials. 

 

“I think it’s really important for people to understand that this was unique,” she said, referring to the Aduhelm decision. Normally, coverage decisions are made at a local level, but in this instance, CMS was asked to make a broader decision on this particular drug.

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White male authors dominate prestigious medical journals

Photo by Evan White via pexels

Two of the most influential and esteemed medical journals — if not the top two — are the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). JAMA is more widely circulated than any other medical journal in the world. NEJM has the highest impact factor (number used to measure the importance of a journal) of any medical journal (IF 74.7). So, the combined authorship of articles in these two journals is a reasonable yardstick for assessing the diversity of researchers represented in the most influential medical studies.

That’s exactly what a new study published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities has analyzed. The findings are discouraging in light of all the lip service in the past decade about needing to improve parity and diversity in medical research. Before I go into more details about the study, here are a few key takeaways:

• Women and racial/ethnic minorities aren’t just heavily underrepresented — their representation as lead or senior authors isn’t increasing in any meaningful way in either NEJM or JAMA.

• It will take centuries for the proportion of Black and Hispanic lead and senior authors to match the population of Blacks and Hispanics in the U.S.

• As journalists, we can’t change who study authors are but we can control who we contact for outside comments. We can and should also make a point to seek out women, gender minorities and Black and Hispanic researchers and clinicians.

• We can also pay attention to the authors of the studies we review. And when presented with two equally impactful studies to cover, we can opt for the one with more diversity among the authors.

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