Photo by Abstrakt Xxcellence Studios via pexels.
Your mailing address could soon be used as a valuable tool to help health systems properly identify you and link disparate medical records held by different entities.
Since early 2021, the federal government has been working on Project US@ (pronounced “USA”), an initiative to establish a standard approach for representing patient addresses across all health IT systems. The effort, led by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), is believed to improve what is known as patient matching — the processes involved in correctly identifying patients and linking their medical records within and across systems.
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.)
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.
It didn’t sit right with Olga Khazan, an associate editor at The Atlantic, seeing so many people focus on individual behavior as the root cause of public health problems such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. She’d come across too many studies revealing how health is shaped by external factors such as educational opportunity, the physical environment and social quality of neighborhoods, and the corrosive effects of prolonged exposure to stressful living conditions.
In How Being Poor Makes You Sick, Khazan came up with an appealing lede to draw readers into a deeply reported story about the complicated, nuanced realities of the social determinants of health:
When poor teenagers arrive at their appointments with Alan Meyers, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, he performs a standard examination and prescribes whatever medication they need. But if the patient is struggling with transportation or weight issues, he asks an unorthodox question:
“Do you have a bicycle?”
Khazan found an efficient, compact way to frame the story to make it highly readable, while fitting in a tight exposition of the research linking social adversity to poor health via stress, lack of education, poor nutrition, environmental toxins, altered gene expression, and other pathways. I talked to Khazan about how she came up with her idea and executed the reporting. Read more …