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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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While the media focuses on the negotiations surrounding Greece's deepening debt crisis, another angle of the story has received less attention: A country on the financial brink is on the verge of a health crisis, too, with medicine shortages a real possibility.

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Despite new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 urging women to reevaluate how often they receive mammograms, there's still an incredible amount of confusion over how often women should undergo such screening tests.

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At first, Virginia's announcement that it was digitizing millions of vital records seemed like a win. But a closer look reveals that the effort has placed the records behind a paywall that effectively hinders access. That's a shame, given the public health benefits that come with freer access.

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On Tuesday, the FDA announced that it will require the food industry to eliminate the use of artificial trans fats by 2018. Does that mean trans fats will soon disappear completely? Not quite. Here are five things to watch for as the FDA’s new ruling rolls out.

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Requiring certain ingredients to be listed on food labels can often drive larger changes in what we consume. The U.S. required trans fats to appear on food labels in 2006, but countries such as Brazil and Argentina have gone much further in setting limits on the unhealthy fats.

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Why have policies limiting the prevalence of trans fats been so slow to arrive? A brief history explains how policy actions aimed at curbing such fats, now known for their role in chronic diseases, ultimately gained traction in tip-of-the-spear countries such as Denmark.

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Unhealthy trans fats have long remained a staple in our food supply, but that’s slowly starting to change. Denmark provides a useful case study for what happens when countries move to limit the amount of trans fats in food.

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New research offers some much-need recommendations on how to curb MRSA infections among nursing home residents. As it turns out, the activities that pose the greatest risk of infection aren't always what you might think they'd be.

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California is taking another run at requiring doctors to check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing potentially addictive drugs, with legislation passing the state senate yesterday. But will California legislators make the same kinds of compromises with providers that Oklahoma did?

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Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states that require physicians to check a patient’s prescription history before prescribing potentially addictive drugs. How did Oklahoma enact this requirement when so many other states, such as California, have tried and failed?



This year saw a scorcher of a summer, the hottest on record. Worse, it could be the coldest summer we’ll see in our lifetimes. In this webinar, we’ll glean lessons and insights from a yearlong Los Angeles Times investigation into extreme heat. We’ll also identify gaps in state and federal tracking efforts, and outline policy changes that could help. Sign-up here!

The USC Center for Health Journalism's Impact Funds provide reporting support — funding and mentoring — to journalists who think big and want to make a difference. 

Apply today for our National Impact Fund for reporting on health equity and health systems across the country. 

Apply today for our California Impact Fund for reporting that brings untold stories to light in the Golden State. 


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