Tag Archives: health equity

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

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.

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. 

Reporter crafts story about connections between poverty, illness

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health, working to help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or @rojasburke.

Olga Khazan

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 …