Saturday, March 29, 2008

The end of the world as we know it?

"The take home message from these sessions is that basically we're all screwed." That's what one of our classmates said during an AHCJ session on the health effects of climate change. Pearman Parker clearly heard something quite different during the health disparities session on Friday: journalists have the power to reduce the odds of being screwed. Whether a public health problem is as old as poverty or as relatively new as drug-resistant pathogens in hospitals, knowledge is power. And journalists like us have the chance to scrutinize data, interrogate experts, and find the human stories that bring topics to life. By writing about health and medical issues, we help our readers and viewers become more savvy consumers, parents, citizens and voters.

It's not an easy job and sometimes brings us face-to-face with insomnia-inducing doses of human misery. On balance, though, the rewards of this work outweigh the costs. This 10th annual meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists has drawn nearly 500 reporters who do this work, many of whom have been in the field for decades. Catch them in a candid mood and I’ll bet most will admit to being fueled by the conviction that it’s not too late to change the world.

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