Photo: Patricia Thomas, University of GeorgiaJournalism students from the University of Georgia share highlights of their days reporting on rural health issues.
If you think reporting in remote areas of the country is hard – think access, time and travel – try doing it with nearly a dozen people, half a dozen cars and a tight deadline.
That’s what Patricia Thomas did earlier this year, leading nine students and one editor into southwestern Georgia, a rural and remote part of the state where geography can significantly affect residents’ health and challenge providers and local officials. Continue reading →
Journalists from around the country converged on Fort Worth, Texas, this summer to enhance their reporting skills at AHCJ’s eighth Rural Health Journalism Workshop.
Among them was Susan Heavey, AHCJ’s topic leader on health disparities and the social determinants of health care. In a new tip sheet, Susan notes that rural communities face special challenges in attracting and retaining providers, and in keeping hospitals and other critical care facilities open. One surprising trend: Many military veterans – some suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder – often settle in rural communities after their service, putting stress on already limited mental health care resources.
For her tip sheet, Susan combed the best from the one-day workshop’s panels by health care and policy experts who focus on the medical challenges of rural areas. She also highlights some subsequent stories that have been written by attendees.
Journalists Doug Pardue and Lauren Sausser of The Post and Courier in South Carolina almost saw their story, about tackling the perpetually high infant deaths in their southern state, slip away when officials released updated statistics that appeared to show the problem ebbing.
But a closer look at the data — and its geographical divide — showed that the overall numbers weren’t really what they seemed. What resulted when Pardue, part of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team this year, and Sausser, also an award-winning reporter, teamed up was a powerful investigative series on the tight hold of South Carolina’s infant mortality rate and a deeper look at where the state was getting it right, and where it wasn’t.
Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conan Murat, one of Alaska’s first dental health aide therapists, provides a first-person perspective on providing oral health care to his fellow Native Alaskans on the isolated Yukon-Kuskokwim delta in this month’s issue of Health Affairs.
In one piece, “How to Close the Physician Gap,” the authors suggest that registered nurses and pharmacists could help address the disparity between the demand for primary care services and the number of physicians available to provide the care. Another looks at meeting growing health care needs through the wider use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
But Murat’s piece weighs in on another health care workforce issue that touches the lives of millions of Americans: the shortage of dental providers. Continue reading →
Fans of data analysis and numbers will want to dive straight into the first installment. According to Muchmore, 66 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties contain “Health Professional Shortage Areas, which means “they don’t meet the national standard of one physician for every 3,500 people.” And those doctor-patient ratios aren’t improving.
The state is facing a severe shortage of doctors as the population ages. Adding to that, as many as 180,000 people are poised to receive insurance when provisions of federal health-care reform kick in 2 1/2 years from now.
What’s behind that shortage? Muchmore enumerates the key drivers.
Medical schools are not increasing their class sizes, residency slots are hard to come by, and doctors are choosing to locate in other states.
The last two factors go hand-in-hand, as doctors often practice where they have their residencies. Without a connection, they have little reason to locate in a rural area.
The state is not well-positioned to handle a further deterioration in its health-care system. Oklahoma consistently ranks among the worst states for obesity, diabetes, smoking, heart disease and overall health. It has the least improvement in the country in age-adjusted death rate since 1990.