5-Star Friday: Exposing hidden realities of health care

Expose • (verb)

/ ikˈspōz/

• Make (something) visible, typically by uncovering it • “At low tide the sands are exposed” • Synonyms: reveal, uncover, lay bare.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important roles journalism plays in society is to expose.

The articles we feature below are great examples of this, and we give the reporters 5 stars for exposing these important issues.

Joy Victory | Deputy Managing Editor

Deadly deliveries: How hospitals are failing mothers  • Alison Young • USA TODAY

Joy Victory

This is a stellar series that deeply probes the way hospitals are failing women in childbirth. “What we found is there’s very little tracking of hospitals’ maternal safety records – and hospitals do not want to talk about it,” one of the terrific data visualizations explain. “When USA TODAY contacted 75 hospitals across the country, half refused to answer questions about their childbirth safety practices.”

I’m highlighting this piece not just with the hope that people read it and learn from it, but also to highlight that there’s more that can be written on this already well-reported topic. For example, I would love to see journalists also tackle:

  • How there aren’t enough incentives for hospitals to change. Hospitals make money off sick people–including sick pregnant moms. How can we shift the financial incentives so that hospitals don’t profit from providing bad care (and sometimes lethal care) to save moms?
  • How prenatal care can fail women and contribute to women arriving at the hospital in poor shape. It’s not just hospitals that should bear the blame. Taking blood pressure incorrectly, dismissing moms’ complaints, rushing women in and out of visits after long waiting room times–all of these things also occur in prenatal clinic visits.

Mary Chris Jaklevic | Reporter-Editor

Drug Trade Group Quietly Spends ‘Dark Money’ To Sway Policy And Voters  • Jay Hancock • Kaiser Health News

Mary Chris Jaklevic

As the documentary “Dark Money” rivets attention on the influence of untraceable corporate money on U.S. politics, this story highlights how similar intrigue is at play in health policy. It says the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America quietly funded the American Action Network, a group that campaigned to end the Affordable Care Act, a fact disclosed more than a year after the fact in an IRS Form 990. That’s interesting because PhARMA was previously a big supporter of the law.

More broadly, the story points out a problem we’ve highlighted: there’s potentially much corporate money flowing into health policy campaigns, but the public will never know about it, since laws don’t require corporations or recipient not-for-profits to disclosure.

Michael Joyce | Writer-Producer

Michael Joyce

Photographer documents mother’s journey with MS • by Heidi Atter • CBC News

It’s easy as journalists to get so focused on words that we forget images.

Then we get reminders like this one from reporter Heidi Atter who shares the story (and photographs) of Jamie Woytiuk, who’s spent the past 7 years documenting her mother’s life with progressive multiple sclerosis. She says:

I just really wanted people to see her like I see her. She’s still here. She exists. She’s a human, she has feelings, and she’s important.

The photographs are a clear media message. One that Marc Stecker, who blogs as the “Wheelchair Kamikaze,” says we don’t get to see nearly enough:

Courtesy [of] the mainstream media and the Multiple Sclerosis Societies, the public never sees the ravaged bodies and mangled lives of people hit hardest by the disease. Instead, the face of MS belongs to celebrities and those patients left mostly unscathed by the illness.

It’s an important reminder of how we often sanitize diseases for public consumption. Buffer ourselves. Contrive a comfortable distance. These images remove that buffer and replace it with intimacy. As Jamie says about caregiving for — and photographing — her mom:

[My mom] is opening up her life and vulnerability. It’s not pretty. It’s very ugly and sad and she cries alot. And she’s not the woman that she used to be.

It’s a message worth hearing and these are photographs worth seeing.

Please Note: These stories have not been subject to our rigorous, 10-criteria systematic review for accuracy, balance, and completeness. Rather, they represent pieces of health care journalism and opinion writing that members of our staff found compelling and wanted to share with others.

This story has been systemically evaluated by our team of expert reviewers and earned a 5-star score:

5-Star Friday is a regular feature on HealthNewsReview.org. You can find a list of previous installments HERE.

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