When the H1N1 influenza pandemic happened in 2009, local reporting helped to bring that emerging disease threat to global attention.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was the first agency to detect two young children infected with the flu strain. While officials were trying to figure out what they were dealing with, “disease detectives” combed through recent media reports to determine if other cases were out there. They found that there were and that the virus was spreading.

This is just one of the reasons that the decline of local daily newspapers across the country isn’t just a problem for journalists. It greatly affects the public’s access to health education.

Health and local media

Maia Majumder, a computational epidemiology research fellow at HealthMap—a 12-year-old disease detection project run by researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital—conducted a study of the connection between local newspapers and disease surveillance.

Her conclusion? Local newspapers are critical to identifying infectious disease outbreaks, and their trajectory, because researchers depend on them to supply early accounts of something taking place in a community.

Local reporting and emerging disease threats

In the years 2016-2017, there was a mumps outbreak in northwestern Arkansas. Majumder and her colleagues were having problems getting key data needed to help control the outbreak. The Department of Health issued regular updates but they didn’t archive updates on their website.

Fortunately, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was covering the outbreak. That coverage provided context and Majumder was able to make the connection between the outbreak and the vaccine refusal rate. This helped public health officials better understand the situation they were facing.

Why you need a devoted health reporter

Health communicators know the importance of the local media so they provide resources and help build relationships. Local media like Insider Louisville helps frame health issues and spur the community to take action on them.

Darla Carter

Darla Carter

In the first part of 2018, as part of our promise to readers, Insider Louisville hired a reporter to concentrate on the health beat. Darla Carter backs up her reporting with sound technical knowledge and interviews with experts and other respected sources. Darla and respected Insider reporter Joe Sonka also have detailed all the nuts and bolts of Kentucky’s Section 1115 Medicaid waiver and recent changes to Medicaid benefits in several informative articles.

We’re not stopping here. It is our mission to inform readers about the issues that affect our lives in the weeks, months, years to come.

Support our nonprofit newsroom for a healthier Louisville

As a nonprofit media organization, Insider Louisville is committed to informing readers with impactful, public-service journalism so that they can help shape outcomes.

The outlook for local media doesn’t need to be bleak. Help us produce stories that improve local government, attract the best and brightest talent, strengthen the local economy, and tell the world about our world-class art scene and culture. Become a sustaining member today to support local journalism.