Closing system

Honors in Health Care Journalism | The New York Times Company

I am pleased that the Association of Health Journalists has honored the superb work of Times journalists in two categories of its annual Excellence in Health Journalism Awards.

In harrowing human portraits, Gina Kolata and John Eligon (with help from Ismail Alfa) shed light on the neglect of people with sickle cell disease, most of whom are of African descent, winning third place in the Public Health category. They brought intense dedication to the subject over two years of reporting and uncovered serious injustices.

Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Robert Gebeloff and Katie Thomas have held Medicare accountable for its deeply flawed scoring system that’s supposed to help the public judge the quality of nursing homes that won third place in the Survey category. These stories prompted federal legislation to reform the scoring system.

Gina grew up close to two families who each had a pair of daughters with the disease. In one case, the sisters were freed from the disease, one with an exciting new gene therapy only available to a few dozen people through a clinical trial. The other sisters – bubbly and charming – had strokes that damaged their brains because, like half of the children with the disease, the medical system failed to get them to pass a age-old screening test. several decades that could have prevented strokes.

John recounted a woman’s struggles to get effective medication to relieve the agony of illness and the mental anguish she felt when ER doctors saw her – a black woman – as a drug addict . From Nigeria, he wrote of a mother’s relentless efforts to save her baby girl’s life. Sickle cell disease had already claimed three of her daughters. John explained that in Nigeria – where around 150,000 children are born with the disease every year – simple blood tests to detect it at birth are in short supply, as is even the most basic care.

In the nursing homes series, Katie, Jessica and Rob looked at how a widely used government rating system made nursing homes safer and cleaner than they actually were, allowing to houses with terrible track records to get top marks.

This series of stories showed how flawed the system’s underlying data, largely self-reported by nursing homes, was. He examined the disturbing use of antipsychotics to subdue residents, finding that many nursing homes appeared to give residents false diagnoses of schizophrenia to mask their true levels of antipsychotics.

And he pulled back the curtain on a secret appeals process that allowed nursing homes to keep inspectors’ most damaging findings out of public view, fostering the illusion that recent inspections had given them grades without task.

Find the full list of winners here.