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Posts Tagged ‘health’


Health Affects All Of Us: Covering the Affordable Care Act

A little over a year ago, I didn’t know much about health insurance, except that I had it. Well that all changed when I was assigned to cover the Affordable Care Act in 2013.

In Nevada, we have a state based exchange, and our state figures showed many Nevadans didn’t have health insurance, especially in the Latino community.

When the insurance came online through the exchange, the learning process started rolling.

Much like the reports we heard about healthcare.gov, there were also problems in enrolling through the Nevada exchange Nevada Health Link. The process moved forward, and people were enrolled, but not as many as projected.

There lies a situation yet to be uncovered. For those in communities across the country who chose not to enroll, or missed the deadlines, penalties are coming. It will show up when people start filing their taxes.

Courtesy: clipartbest.com

For those journalists assigned to cover the ACA or health insurance, the stories are numerous. It’s not too late to start, as open enrollment begins its second year.

Lower income communities will be impacted greatly by the new federal law requiring all Americans to have health insurance. Whether they buy a plan through the exchange in their state, or qualify for Medicaid, they must enroll.

To learn more about insurance issues, find the navigators, or insurance brokers in your communities. They can guide you to further understand the intricacies.

What are the efforts being done to disseminate this information in other languages? In Nevada, there was great need to explain and to help people enroll who speak Spanish.

This additional expense will impact families’ budgets, another factor to consider in decisions to enroll or not. Hospitals and doctors offices will also be impacted by the new influx of patients who are now insured.

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Courtesy: clipartbest.com

The issue is not without controversy. Whether people believe mandated affordable insurance is a dream come true, or is a bad idea, it’s still in effect.

Those involved with providing the insurance through the federal government, or through the individual states that wanted to operate their own exchanges, now have at least one year of experience under their belts.

With glitches, complications, and other frustrations that evolved during the first year of enrollment, government insurance leaders, and insurance carriers are hoping for a smoother ride with this second year rolling out.
Covering this activity has become a new beat in newsrooms and if your newsroom hasn’t designated a reporter to this topic, this would be a great beat to grab. The impact of insurance on the community is far-reaching, and the stories are numerous. Health affects all of us, and this is an arena that will continue to grow.

Sandra Gonzalez

Sandra Gonzalez

 

Sandra Gonzalez is former SPJ Diversity Committee Chair, and is a general assignment reporter at KSNV-TV in Las Vegas.

@SandraGonzalez2

sandragonzalezthereporter@gmail.com

 

 

Stories Have Power: Honor the Trust You’re Given

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains what two Native American journalists are learning as they curate a wellness blog.

Omaha, NE – As a journalist who cut her teeth on the copy desk, I should have pondered the likely editing woes in managing Wellbound Storytellers, a wellness blog written by non-journalists.

However, on reflection, I’m not sure well-laid Wellbound2plans would have worked.Why not? Because I’m the one who got “schooled.” All of those so-called editing headaches turned out to be lessons for me, the experienced editor.

I have condensed those lessons here as they relate to covering health, in particular, American Indian health and wellness.

Stories take time
As perhaps one of the few journalists still in love with the Inverted Pyramid, I value low word counts, aka, a story easy to cut. But people do not tell their wellness stories with a compelling nut graf in mind. At first, I was reluctant to get out of the way of a long personal narrative.

Fellow journalist and Wellbound blogger Rhonda LeValdo was more patient. “I think, if someone is going to tell you a really personal story, let them have the time to do that,” she said. “I don’t badger someone for information … like why they started doing certain things. Maybe it was a death close to them.”

LeValdo, past president of the Native American Journalists Association, said that people talk about personal health issues when they are ready, not just because you need to meet a deadline.

Sometimes, our journalism conventions get in the way of the stories.

Sharing creates vulnerability
The idea behind Wellbound Storytellers is to mobilize the collective, community nature of American Indians to be more transparent about our paths to wellness. The mission is to model the resiliency that characterizes the history and future of Native peoples.

We found that people were generally eager to talk about their health issues, but not as excited to share those stories openly. At first we were surprised. Levaldo and I were expecting other American Indians to share stories for the sake of community health.

In private conversations, people were passionate in telling us their stories. Everyone agreed that these stories needed to be out there, but few were willing to let it be their own stories.

Here are the main reasons behind the reluctance:

Stories have power: A shared belief among many American Indians is that stories in themselves carry power. Wellbound3 History has shown that trusting others with that power – whether reporters or readers – has not proven beneficial.

Storytelling skills: People are not confident in their writing or storytelling and don’t want others to judge them based on it. Also, storytelling is sometimes considered a quasi-official role in the community and therefore only the duty of some.

Embarrassment: For some, letting their health issues out there for the world to see is just embarrassing. Even minor considerations are a concern. As one potential blogger said,“What if I talk about my new healthy eating lifestyle and then someone sees me out eating cake!”

Consequences: What would others do with this personal information? Some worried about being fired if the tribal government found out they had cancer, for example. Others worried about ridicule. One blogger, who pushed past her fears, worried she would be shunned by the community for talking about controversial health concerns.

To a journalist, stories may just be part of the interview process. But for many American Indians, stories carry the wellness we need within them. At Wellbound Storytellers, we walk the balance between producing online content and carefully respecting the power of storytelling.

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

Telling their own stories: How two Native journalists got past gloomy health statistics to find stories of resiliency

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, who founded Wellbound Storytellers

Who’s News is inviting top journalists and journalism educators to share their thoughts on inclusion in the news. Here, Teresa Trumbly Lamsam explains why two Native American journalists decided to find a way to improve health coverage.

Omaha, NE – American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIAN) have the poorest health status in the US and a lower life expectancy, including a higher rate (1.6 times non-Hispanic White population) of infant mortality.

AIANs also endure high levels of suicide and mental health concerns, obesity, diabetes, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, liver disease, and hepatitis.

As an American Indian journalist, educator, and tribal member, I was acquainted with the statistics. I could even put names and faces to many of those numbers.

The statistics may paint an accurate, revealing and even necessary picture of AIANs as the sickest people in the country. But after year after year of reporting and reading them, I became jaded about American Indian health news and maybe a little fatalistic.

I reached the “whatever” point. That point where you are ready to walk away and tell the status quo to have at it. But a reality check was right around the corner.

Rhonda pic

Rhonda LeValdo, former NAJA president, producer and host of “Native Spirit” radio show at KKFI 90.1 FM

As if on cue, my own health status became an issue, and given that my personality is not a good fit with cynicism, I shucked the jaded attitude and started looking for solutions. That search led me to Native journalist Rhonda LeValdo, who at the time was president of the Native American Journalists Association.

Turns out, health was on the top of her mind too, both personally and professionally. She was grieving the loss of family members to diabetes complications, and as a parent, determined that diabetes would not claim her or her children.

First we commiserated over the sad state of health reporting for American Indians in mainstream and tribal media. However, criticism wasn’t really doing it for us. We wanted to make a difference in news reporting – a difference that we hoped would also translate to better health in Native communities.

If teary eyes and passionate rhetoric could make a difference, we were well on our way. We left our meeting with a pledge to come up with an idea. Any idea would do because we were desperate to do something, even if it fell flat.

Wellbound ScreenshotSoon after I emailed LeValdo and suggested that we just blog about our own health journeys and recruit other Native journalists to join us. Within the first week of announcing the blog, American Indians who had read about Wellbound Storytellers were emailing to ask if they could contribute. The citizen health journalism blog was born.

Whether they are writing about disease or marathons, our bloggers focus on health through both traditional and contemporary frames using humor and everyday stories of resiliency. They come from all walks of life. Even the journalists write in a personal, conversational tone.

The statistics and perceptions about American Indian health paint us a pitiful people with an outlook of fatalism. The mission of Wellbound Storytellers is to show that health struggles and triumphs can go hand-in-hand. In your coverage of American Indians, consider striking this balance, too.

(Next up: Part 2 focuses on the lessons that Wellbound bloggers taught me about reporting on health and wellness.)

Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, Ph.D., is the editor and creator of Wellbound Storytellers and executive editor of Native Health News Alliance, a website for journalists under development. She is an associate professor in the School of Communication at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Teresa, an enrolled member of the Osage Nation, is a former tribal press editor. 

(Photos courtesy of Teresa Trumbly Lamsam.)

Use Bloomberg and Disney News to Deepen Health Coverage

It’s been a fun couple of weeks for health news, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rationing soda portions and the Disney Co. calling a halt to junk food advertising for kids. You can do more with this story, though, than just trot out arguments for and against.

Bloomberg and Disney aim to block structural incentives to eat sugary, salty foods – and through their policy efforts, trim obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Their specific approaches certainly are open to debate. But public health departments across the country have been pleading for some type of policy-based, structural change. Their priority: Halt the disproportionate impact of dire health conditions on specific population groups.

Take a close look at the obesity statistics. African Americans and Mexican Americans have the highest rates across the country. And while we tend to associate obesity with low incomes, that’s not true here – at least for men. Nationally, African American and Mexican American men with higher incomes are more likely to be overweight than their lower-income counterparts. What’s going on?

To take the story one step further, consider that high weight puts people at risk for diabetes, a life-long chronic condition characterized by a roller-         coaster of blood sugar levels – and devastating complications –  if not kept under control. Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans have the highest risk for diabetes of all ethnic or racial groups, close to double that of non-Hispanic white people. The rate for non-Hispanic black people also is much higher than for whites – by three-quarters. Diabetes is rising dangerously among Native Americans, too.

Photo Courtesy: CDC

While all of us are at high risk for heart disease, both African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die of strokes than non-Hispanic white people.How about using this moment to probe the value of Bloomberg’s and Disney’s approaches and their potential effectiveness as structural solutions to health disparities? And why not reach a little deeper to cover the populations most affected by these health conditions?

Big differences in lifelong health don’t trace back to genetics, education or even solely individual choice, according to the latest thinking in public health. Do efforts like Bloomberg’s or Disney’s help balance the equation?That’s a question worth investigating.

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

 

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