Reflecting on completion of fellowship stories
Now that I've finished the last of the three fellowship stories I proposed six months ago, I'll take a moment to write about the lessons I have learned. The great thing about the fellowship was that it allowed me to step back from the more reactive style of reporting -- looking at what is important health-wise right now -- to look at some issues that have existed over time that sometimes get overlooked during the daily grind of reporting.
The subject of infant mortality, for instance, is one that readers may read about only in a statistical sense. This fellowship story allowed me to take a more personal look at the subject, by finding a mother who had two babies die before giving birth to a healthy child. It also gave me time to ferret out statistics that show the sharp disparity between races, broken down by particular cities in my region. Sitting in on a relatively new program that seeks to help expectant mothers from low-income neighborhoods allowed me to put a human face on the issue, and also highlight efforts going on to address the problem of infant mortality.
What I have learned is the importance of finding real people for the story. Otherwise, I think people tend to think of it as a problem that exists in the world of public health rather than in living rooms of people who love their children and suffer heartache when they die.