Tag Archives: Health News Florida

Nonprofit health news site joins WUSF Public Media

Health News Florida, a nonprofit health news website founded by journalist and AHCJ member Carol Gentry, has been acquired by WUSF Public Media, which operates public radio and television stations affiliated with the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Carol Gentry

Carol Gentry

According to a post on The Miami Herald‘s website, the Health News Florida website will continue while NPR creates a new site and integrates existing content.

Gentry, reporters Sarah Pusateri, Sammy Mack and editorial assistant Lottie Watts will work continue to provide content for the site and the radio station.

Gentry, who has covered health finance and policy for the St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune and The Wall Street Journal, founded Health News Florida in 2006. In a press release, she says the partnership with WUSF is a good fit. “Our values match up to those of public broadcasting.”

Reporters use county rankings for analysis

On Feb. 17, rankings of the relative health of counties in each American state were released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. The rankings used data from 13 distinct (mostly federal) sources, including the National Center for Health Statistics, the Census Bureau and the Dartmouth Atlas. With that data, researchers computed eight separate composite scores, which were then weighted to produce one overall score. The ratings are navigated by clicking through a national map to the state and county level. Enough clicks will even bring you to the raw data itself. The state only compares counties, not states, because data collection varies from state to state and isn’t always standardized.

logo1It’s a combination of data, analysis and an intuitive interface, and journalists have been quick to localize the story. Many reporters reached beyond the easy numbers (“our county is 67th!”) to use the system for deeper stories.

For example, Robin Erb of the Detroit Free Press dissected the ratings process and how individual factors and disparities played into them before launching into the standard state breakdown.

Writing for Health News Florida, David Gulliver took a broader state view and considered how various socioeconomic factors played into the rankings of Florida counties. Gulliver’s analysis:

The strong-performing coastal counties, like Collier, St. John’s Sarasota, Charlotte, Palm Beach and Broward, all benefit from having heavy concentrations of retirees who have guaranteed health care access via Medicare. …

[Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of public health for Orange County] said that in Florida’s tourism and service industries, workers tend to be transient and less likely to have insurance or consistent primary care.

He noted the low-ranked counties were some of the poorest in Florida, like Union and Bradford in the rural north, and Glades and Okeechobee, with heavy populations of migrant workers. Those counties also tend to have more people who speak only Spanish, Creole or other languages.

Gulliver localized the story on a county level for his Sarasota Health News site.

In USA Today, Mary Brophy Marcus took the national view and looked for broad trends and generalizations. Marcus’ story was accompanied by a map by Frank Pompa highlighting each state’s healthiest and least healthy counties.

Florida keeps doctors’ arrests, convictions offline

Health News Florida’s Carol Gentry reports on health department disclosure of the arrest of medical professionals, writing “It’s the policy of Florida’s Department of Health not to post public information about arrests and convictions until a professional licensing board takes final action, no matter how long that takes.”

The department has a consumer-oriented site designed to notify Florida residents of disciplined physicians, but Gentry writes that it doesn’t even include already-public records and often fails to post issues until long after they have occurred. A representative told Gentry that their procedure was to not make information public while “due process is going on,” and added that if consumers wanted that information they were welcome to call the health department.

In a follow-up story, Gentry reports that attorneys who defend doctors in disciplinary matters think the Department of Health’s stance is “entirely appropriate.” But a consumer advocacy group says the public has a right to know about complaints. As Gentry points out, “It can take years to resolve pending cases, especially if the professional contests the case or if there is a backlog.”

Report looks at nonprofits’ health reporting

Maralee  Schwartz, a Shorenstein  Center  Fellow at Harvard University, has written a report titled “Getting  It  for  Free:  When  Foundations  Provide  the  News  on  Health.” (35-page PDF)

She points out that using stories produced by nonprofit foundations “raises  questions  that  go  to  the  heart  of  the  journalistic  enterprise  and  its  role  in  American  democracy:  Does  the  very  availability  of  content  about  a  pet  issue  of  a  particular  foundation  mean  that  coverage  will  be  skewed?  Does  nonprofit  journalism  mean  lower  standards?  How  does  a  newspaper  safeguard  integrity  and  independence?”

The report also looks at the economic challenges that editors are facing, including the results of a survey AHCJ and the Kaiser Family Foundation did in March.

Schwartz, formerly a political  reporter and  editor at  The  Washington  Post, takes a close look at Kaiser Health News. Schwartz also writes about efforts in various states to create nonprofit organizations to do health reporting, including the Center for California Health Care Journalism, which first partnered with the Merced Sun Star for a project. Other similar projects include the Kansas Health Institute News Service and Health News Florida.

The report includes interviews with reporters and editors at the nonprofit organizations and at newspapers that have used their work, including AHCJ board member Karl Stark.

Schwartz concludes that “Most  of  the  experts  interviewed  expressed  hope  that  this  trend  can  be  supported.  They  also  agreed  that  objections  about  the  dilution  of  independence  and  journalistic  standards  can  be  addressed  by  developing  odes  of  conduct,  for  lack  of  a  better  phrase,  so  that  both  editors  and  readers  can  have  confidence  in  the  work  produced  by  Kaiser  or  ProPublica,  or  a  variety  of  other  nonprofits.”