Favorite Health Journalism of 2010, Part 1
As 2011 unfolds, I'd like to share some of my favorite health journalism – much but not all of it policy-related – from 2010. This is definitely not a best-of list, but rather journalism that can inspire and teach us.
Here are my first five picks, in no particular order of importance. I'll share the next five in an upcoming post.
Happy New Year!
1. Texas Medicaid coverage, The Texas Tribune, 2010
Few media outlets have approached the issue of states' cash-strapped Medicaid problems with the zeal of the online news venture Texas Tribune. In coverage led by one of our Fellows, Emily Ramshaw, and with help from Kaiser Health News, the Tribune has reported deeply on what health reform means for the state's Medicaid program and various attempts to expand it – or quit the federal health program altogether. The Tribune has taken a multimedia approach to the topic, with numerous stories, an interactive look at Texas' Medicaid costs, blog entries, audio and video.
2. Chronic Lyme disease: A dubious diagnosis, Chicago Tribune, Dec. 8, 2010
The Chicago Tribune's Patricia Callahan and Trine Tsouderos (one of our Fellows) will never be accused of false balance in their story about chronic Lyme disease. "There's little good evidence that chronic Lyme disease exists. Yet doctors are treating it with drugs that put patients and the public at risk," reads its subhed. This story's strong point of view generated quite a bit of controversy, in particular getting a surprising smackdown from the Knight Science Journalism Tracker's Paul Raeburn, but it's been vigorously defended by scientists, too. There's a strong policy focus in this story, with reporting on legislative attempts to weaken oversight of doctors who treat chronic Lyme and on the prospect that the long-term antibiotics commonly prescribed to chronic Lyme patients will create even more drug-resistant bacteria.
3. For Many, Health Care Relief Begins Today, New York Times, Sep. 23, 2010
On the day that Americans saw significant consumer protections from historic health reform legislation go into effect, New York Times reporter Kevin Sack movingly profiled three families affected by the new law. In Kansas, for example, he wrote about the relief of one family, who had been unable to get coverage for their daughter, diagnosed with spina bifida and mild autism. The profiles and accompanying introduction are a textbook example of how to humanize the impact of bone-dry legislation.
4. Rationing Health, PRI/ProPublica, 2010
Pulitzer Prize-winning doctor-reporter Sheri Fink traveled the world to report her compelling public radio series on how other nations ration health care. Granted access you'd never see in the United States, Fink recorded a South African hospital rationing committee's deliberations on who would be granted ongoing kidney dialysis, and who would die. It's heartbreaking, important journalism.
5. Nursing homes received millions while cutting staff, wages, California Watch, Apr. 17, 2010
Christina Jewett (one of our Fellows) and Agustin Armendariz shed some welcome light on how a little-known state law allowed more than 200 California nursing homes to slash wages and caregivers while exploiting a Medicaid windfall that boosted their profits. Their work for the online news start-up California Watch also included a "how we did it" explainer, an interactive graphic and data page, and a blog post on legislative and regulatory changes made after the story was published.