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Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2011: Schedule

Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2011
Workshop home
Speaker materials


  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust
  • The Midwest Health Journalism Program:
    • The Kansas Health Foundation
    • The Sunflower Foundation
    • The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund
    • REACH Healthcare Foundation
    • Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City
    • Missouri Foundation for Health


8-9 a.m.


8:45 a.m.

• Len Bruzzese, executive director, Association of Health Care Journalists

9-10 a.m.

What drives rural health issues? Looking for the answers
What factors influence the health of rural residents? Surroundings? Behavior? A combination of factors? This panel will explore key health determinants for rural America – from a man-made "built environment" that provides the setting for human resources such as grocery markets and hospitals, to social factors that define the predominant customs and practices of rural areas, and persistent behavior such as smoking or alcohol abuse. The panel offers journalists insight and ideas on how to view and review their own communities.
• Ellen Barnidge, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in behavioral science and health education, St. Louis University
• Sarah Gehlert, Ph.D., E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity, Brown School, Washington University
• Moderator: Jim Doyle, business health care reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

10:15-11:15 a.m.

The food and health disconnection: Hunger in rural America
Food is the overlooked component of health - taken for granted by almost everyone. In many parts of rural America, seniors are on waiting lists for home-delivered meals and there are shortages at food pantries. This panel will explore what is happening on the ground and what the research shows about hunger and health, and the problems of getting enough – in quantity and quality – to eat in America's rural areas.
• Joel Halverson, assistant professor, School of Pharmacy/Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University
• Barrie Hardin, vice president for community services, Area Agency on Aging of Southeast Arkansas
• Moderator: Irene Wielawski, independent journalist, Pound Ridge, N.Y.

11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Reporting on people and providers: Medicare's impact in your community
Residents of rural areas are generally older, poorer and sicker than their urban counterparts. They're also less likely to have private health insurance. Almost half of all inpatients in rural hospitals are Medicare beneficiaries, making providers more vulnerable to changes in reimbursements and eligibility. While there are special designations to help rural hospitals compensate, access to care is still fragile and uneven. Hear from a rural doctor who deals with these challenges, and from a Medicare expert for an overview of the issues and what's ahead in health care reform.
• Tom Dean, M.D., family practice physician Avera Weskota Memorial Medical
• Timothy D. McBride, Ph.D., professor and associate dean for public health, Brown School, Washington University
• Moderator: Blythe Bernhard, medical reporter, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

12:30-2:15 p.m.

Lunch session

Prescription abuse: A deadly rural problem
For years, the war on drugs targeted illicit substances such as cocaine, heroin and marijuana. But a far more insidious problem is developing with prescription drugs. And rural areas are among the hardest hit. More Kentucky residents die each year of prescription drug abuse than in traffic fatalities. In West Virginia, the death rate from overdoses involving prescription drugs more than quadrupled between 2001 and 2008. Doctors are struggling with how to treat legitimate patient ailments while keeping drugs out of the hands of addicts. State and local officials are struggling to keep up amid budget cuts. This panel will address what is causing the problem and how reporters can effectively write about it.
• Kristine Bowers, membership service coordinator, Coalition on Appalachian Substance Abuse
• Alison Knezevich, The Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette
• Laura Ungar, medical writer, Louisville (Ky.) Courner-Journal
• Moderator: Charles Ornstein, senior reporter, ProPublica

2:30-3:30 p.m.

Workforce stories: When health care becomes scarce
Health care in rural America can be hard to come by because of doctor and nurse shortages, and the distances patients have to travel to medical offices and hospitals. Turnover is also a problem, leading to discontinuity in care as medical professionals relocate to cities for better working conditions, pay and collegial support. This session will explore both the challenges of recruiting clinicians to rural practice as well as innovative approaches to retaining them and extending the reach of rural health systems.
• Helen Miner, R.N., Ph.D., director, Lake Country Area Health Education Center, Tyler, Texas
• Gary M. Wiltz, M.D., chief executive officer, Teche Action Clinic, Franklin, La.
• Moderator: Irene Wielawski, independent journalist, Pound Ridge, N.Y.

3:45-4:45 p.m.

Floods, tornadoes and health: Covering disaster preparation and aftermath
Rural America is no stranger to disaster. And when disasters strike, the health of people in rural areas can be especially hard hit. As quick-striking tornadoes and slowly rising flood waters strike rural areas, public health becomes a life and death issue. Water systems fail, leaving no clean drinking water. Roads and bridges are blocked, adding hours to emergency transport times. Floods can spoil the countryside with hazardous chemicals. Temperature extremes of killer heat waves and the bitter cold of winter bring different sets of health challenges. Disaster experts offer resources for journalists covering the facets of health before, during and after disaster.
• John Hacker, managing editor, Carthage (Mo.) Press
• William D. Hacker, M.D., F.A.A.P., C.P.E.; commissioner, Kentucky Department for Public Health
• Moderator: Jeff Porter, special projects director, Association of Health Care Journalists