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William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

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The link between obesity and arthritis rates is fertile ground for reporters to explore. In areas of the south, the two strongly overlap. Is it possible that obesity is driving arthritis rates in these areas?

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A first-of-its-kind CDC report on arthritis gained hardly any notice in the media recently. Given the prevalence of the disease in the U.S., why aren’t health reporters devoting more coverage to this issue?

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Despite problems with two medical boards, convictions of filing a false tax return and insurance fraud, Dr. Tomas Ballesteros Rios still has his California medical license. Meanwhile, the state's medical board has sent mixed messages.

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Why did the California Medical Board allow Dr. Tomas Ballesteros Rios to continue practicing medicine with few restrictions, despite the doctor’s trouble with the IRS, two felony convictions, fines, and probations?

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In May, Dr. Charles Orlando Lewis finally lost his license to practice medicine. But it's the strange events that led up to the medical board's action that really boggle the mind.

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Our ability to pinpoint the causes behind the big increases in drug overdose deaths in recent years rest largely on one lowly piece of paperwork: the death certificate.

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Most numbers you see in health stories are estimates. Yet very few stories acknowledge that. Antidote blogger Bill Heisel discusses a few ways that you can help illuminate the estimation process for your audience.

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“That simply doesn’t pass face validity" is something you'll often hear in scientific circles. Antidote's William Heisel explains why the phrase has something to teach journalists as well.

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Sometimes a big percentage increase is an exciting story that your audience should hear about, but it also might be a puff of smoke obscuring a flimsy story, as recent news suggests.

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Thoughtful comparisons can make all the difference for your audience. For example, the threat of Ebola in the U.S. seems scary until you compare it to drunk drivers, who killed 12,000 in the U.S. in 2014. Ebola killed two.

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This month marks the sober anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd, which ignited global protests and renewed efforts to reform or dismantle policing. In our next webinar, we’ll examine the price society pays for a criminal-legal system that disproportionately arrests, punishes and kills Black people. And we’ll look at how reporters can best cover this evolving story in original and powerful ways. Sign-up here!

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Are you passionate about helping journalists understand and illuminate the social factors that contribute to health and health disparities at a time when COVID-19 has highlighted the costs of such inequities? Looking to play a big role in shaping journalism today in the United States? The USC Center for Health Journalism seeks an enterprising and experienced journalism leader for our new position of “Manager of Projects.” 

 

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