A typical workday for freelancer Melba Newsome

Melba Newsome

For this installment of A Typical Workday, I interviewed independent journalist, writer and editor Melba Newsome. Newsome’s byline has appeared in national, regional and local publications, including Scientific American, Newsweek, Bloomberg, AARP, Wired, North Carolina Health News and many others. This year, she worked with Wake Forest University to create the Wake Forest Mellon Environmental Justice Journalism Fellowship, a five-day intensive program designed to improve coverage of environmental justice and to diversify the ranks of journalists covering the issue. This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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Online privacy violations do real harm to patients

Ari Friedman

Ari Friedman (Photo courtesy of Hoag Levins)

A new study shows third-party tracking occurs on nearly all hospital websites, buttressing recent news coverage about consumers’ loss of privacy when they browse for health information online.

In fact, nearly all U.S. hospital websites have been sharing potentially sensitive medical information about their visitors with tech companies, data brokers and advertising firms, according to a University of Pennsylvania analysis published in Health Affairs.

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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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Webinar: Everything reporters need to know
about a high-risk bio lab in Kansas

The USDA National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. Photo courtesy of USDA

On May 24, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. The facility will monitor and respond to biological threats involving transboundary, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases. 

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With new hire, AHCJ puts firearm violence and trauma
front and center in public health reporting

Kaitlin Washburn

AHCJ recently welcomed Kaitlin Washburn, a Chicago-based independent health reporter, as the organization’s first firearm violence and trauma HealthBeat leader (formerly known as core topic leader).

Funding for the new role comes from the Joyce Foundation, which also provided support for AHCJ’s fall summit in 2022 on firearm violence as a public health issue. 

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