Brie Zeltner has been covering northeast Ohio’s health care industry for more than eight years at The (Cleveland, Ohio) Plain Dealer. But earlier this year her work garnered fresh attention when she became the inaugural winner of the Urban Health Journalism Prize.
Her 2014 piece took a deep dive into the effects of poverty on children’s health in the city. She combed several databases to create a critical snapshot of poverty and its impact on births, asthma, behavior and stress, among other health issues. She also took a closer look at local efforts and programs aimed at mediating the impact and addressing the city’s health gaps among its youngest residents.
Read our conversation with Zeltner about how she went about pulling together her award-winning piece.
U.S. Census Bureau
When the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual estimate of income, poverty and health insurance coverage this month, health insurance numbers were front and center. While family finances and the nation’s official poverty rate was stagnant last year, the numbers of those lacking coverage fell. Now newly released regional data offers a chance to tell more layered stories.
The overall findings, which cover 2014, offered a snapshot of how people in the United States are faring amid the first full year that the Affordable Care Act required most people to obtain health insurance coverage or face penalties. It also showed how many are still failing to see gains years after the recession officially ended.
The health care gains clearly stood out in the coverage of the findings from Census, which released its main report on Sept. 16. But peel back the layers and other interesting trends also emerged. One particularly interesting finding was that more women had health insurance last year than men. Continue reading
This map from the U.S. Census shows the 2013 poverty rate for U.S. children ages 5 to 17 in families.
It’s about that time.
If you’ve been covering social determinants for a while, you’ve likely familiarized with the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual release of income, poverty and health insurance coverage data. If you’re new to health disparities, welcome to an annual rite.
Although the statistics measure the previous calendar year, they can provide a useful overall picture of how the United States is faring when it comes to income inequality, as well as access to health care. The figure is considered the nation’s official poverty rate.
The Census Bureau will release its latest findings for 2014 on Wednesday, Sept. 16. So what can we expect and what should you be looking for? Continue reading
Images streaming from the recent unrest in Baltimore showed parts of a city in flames, buildings in ruins and turmoil in the streets following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray April 19 while in police custody.
Less visible – perhaps with the exception of a burned and looted CVS – are the scars of limited access to health care in a city with deep pockets of poverty.
A city on the brink
First, a look at the big picture in Baltimore, Maryland’s biggest city with roughly 623,000 residents and glaring disparities in crime rates, income, education, housing – and health.
People with low socioeconomic status are more likely to act in ways that harm their health compared with those higher on the ladder of income and social stature.
On average, they smoke more, they exercise less and their diet is less wholesome. As a group, they are even less likely to use seatbelts. Researchers have struggled for years to understand why this is so. It involves more than the inability to pay for goods and services that promote health. Cigarettes are expensive, after all. Walking and many other forms of exercise don’t require money, and neither does clicking a seatbelt.
Photo by Roman Pavlyuk via Flickr
One explanation that’s drawing a lot of media attention, perhaps to the point of going overboard, is the idea that poverty overloads the capacity of the brain to make sound decisions. This is the hypothesis advanced in “Scarcity,” an important, fascinating – and expertly publicized – book by behavioral economist Sendhil Mullainathan and cognitive psychologist Eldar Shafir that has been the basis for dozens of news reports since it was published in August. Continue reading
When online commenters get nasty, it’s tempting to just write them off as trolls. But is it possible that sometimes journalists set the stage with cartoonish, stereotyped portrayals of the subjects in our stories, particularly when writing about people who are poor or homeless or undocumented immigrants? Can well-meaning but uncareful journalism about marginalized people do more harm than good?
These are worthy questions posed in a blog by Lori Kleinsmith, who works as a health promoter for a community health center in Ontario, Canada. Kleinsmith says:
The challenge with writing a story about someone living in poverty is that it is really just a snapshot that is unable to display a deeper context of the experience of poverty firsthand. The pathways into and out of poverty are much more complex than a snapshot and many readers are unable to see beyond the surface and to be empathetic to a person’s circumstances, choosing instead to speculate or criticize. There can also be a pitting of the working poor against those in receipt of publicly funded social assistance programs, an “undeserving poor versus deserving poor” battle. The real systemic issues about how to address poverty get lost in the war of words and degrading comments about one’s choices and lifestyle.
Kleinsmith asserts that journalists need to tell more complete stories “that provide evidence and not just emotion, and that do not further victimize those who are brave enough to speak out.” Continue reading