Work in Progress: Health Care in the Silicon Valley

Published on
July 14, 2009

I am a California Broadcast Fellow this year. For my fellowship project, I am developing three series of radio reports 1590 KLIV, an all-news radio station in San Jose, Ca. and I'm looking for feedback. Here's a synopsis of the three series:

1. What's Killing Silicon Valley?

For this project I am working on a series of radio reports that examine the leading causes of death in Santa Clara County, using statistics from the county health department as a entry for a broader look at local resources available to treat/prevent each of the leading killers. I am also interested how mortality statistics vary based on ethnicity, income level and access to health care.

2. What Happens When The Hospital Closes?

Background: About 5 years ago San Jose Medical Center closed after it's owner concluded it would be economically unfeasible to perform state-mandated seismic retrofitting. SJMC was the only hospital serving a large area of San Jose, including the city's downtown core. The hospital's owner was HCA, the largest for-profit hospital corporation the U.S. There was a great deal of public outcry, and concerns expressed on a range of issues including access to health care, the potential to overburden San Jose's other hospitals. Since then the 10-acre site has sat empty. The city is unwilling to change the zoning, insisting that the site remain available for health care, but no one has come forward who is willing to build and operate on the site. For my project I want to re-visit this story, 5 years later. What has happened in the intervening years? How well has the city adjusted to the loss of this facility? What problems remain? Where do people in the affected area now go for hospital services, and how accessible is that service? What will eventually become of the site (there is tremendous developer pressure for the city to allow commercial and residential development on some or all of the site.)

3. Down In The Mouth of Silicon Valley

Access to dental care is increasingly becoming an issue for people in Silicon Valley. Recent tech company layoffs have resulted in many people losing dental insurance. This has added to an already large population of low income people who have little or no access to dental care. What do people do when they can't afford to go to the dentist? What are the risks of deferred, or nonexistent, dental care? Does San Jose have the problem of black market of unlicensed dentistry?

As a component of this story I also want to expand on earlier reporting KLIV did on the curious fact that most of Silicon Valley's water supply is not fluoridated, which is especially detrimental to children's dental health. What impact does this lack of fluoridation have on dental problems?

I welcome your thoughts, tips, etc. Please contact me or leave comments.