I write about health issues for the St. Louis Beacon. My challenge is to convince diverse groups to engage in constructive dialogue about tackling health care access, disparities and costs.I'm sure we all are wrestling with variations of this challenge. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that the public is so distracted by shouting matches and misinformation that it has forgotten the problem it had expected Washington to help solve. We need to find creative ways to help the public see clearlywhat's at stake in the health care debate. As I think about this challenge, I'm reminded of what a former editorial page editor used to do when his writers couldn't reach agreement on an editorial issue involving a hot, divisive issue.Instead, he would put us in a room and force us to back up and engage in a spirited debate to make sure we all were arguing about the same issue. Once we reached agreement on the specific editorial issue we were trying and address, reaching consensus became a lot easier. The health care debate suffers from that kind of dilemma. The public has forgotten the key issue or issues that made health care the most pressing domestic problem.We intend to keep telling stories through a variety of methods in our ongoing exploration of health and health care in America. Is anybody experimenting with multimedia approaches in a big way in order to counter the misinformation surrounding the health care debate and return the focus to the basic issue or issues? I'm thinking of taking a page from Al Gore's multimedia show on global warming -- big audiences, big projectors, lots of video and animation -- to bring an added sense of urgency and focus to Missouri's health care crisis.
Editor's Note: Robert Joiner's multi-part California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship series appeared in the St. Louis Beacon throughout the fall of 2010. It's a moving and important examination of health disparities in St. Louis. You can read the project here.