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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?

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As public health officials like to say, "COVID-19 isn't done with us." And journalists know that we're not done with COVID-19. Apply now for five days of stimulating discussions on the pandemic's disproportionate impact on people of color -- plus reporting and engagement grants of $2k-$10k and five months of mentoring while you work on an ambitious project.

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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