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Contest Entries

Needless Deaths

Entrants: Heidi Hall

Affiliation: The Tennessean

Community Newspapers

Year: 2009

Place: Third Place

Provide a brief synopsis of the story or stories, including any significant findings.

Tennessean education editor Heidi Hall spent five weeks examining why Tennessee ranks 22nd for cancer diagnoses – about the middle of the pack nationally – but has one of the worst cancer death rates. After talking to more than 100 cancer researchers, doctors, patients and social workers, two reasons emerged. Because Tennesseans smoke more than most of the nation, more of them end up with tough-to-beat lung cancer, and their deaths drive the state ranking. But it could be improved if people received recommended screenings for colorectal, breast and prostate cancer – the other main types of cancers that strike Tennesseans.

Judges' comments: Heidi Hall provides an enormous public service to her readers by documenting the high cancer mortality rate in Tennessee and showing that in addition to smoking, the deaths stem from late diagnosis because of poverty, lack of insurance, a lack of information and fatalism. Her series is a good first step toward combating these problems.

Read "Needless Deaths."

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