Center for Health Journalism

William Heisel's Antidote: Investigating Untold Health Stories

William Heisel, former investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times, writes about investigative health reporting. He is currently the director of global engagement at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Despite problems with two medical boards, convictions of filing a false tax return and insurance fraud, Dr. Tomas Ballesteros Rios still has his California medical license. Meanwhile, the state's medical board has sent mixed messages.
Why did the California Medical Board allow Dr. Tomas Ballesteros Rios to continue practicing medicine with few restrictions, despite the doctor’s trouble with the IRS, two felony convictions, fines, and probations?
In May, Dr. Charles Orlando Lewis finally lost his license to practice medicine. But it's the strange events that led up to the medical board's action that really boggle the mind.
Our ability to pinpoint the causes behind the big increases in drug overdose deaths in recent years rest largely on one lowly piece of paperwork: the death certificate.
Most numbers you see in health stories are estimates. Yet very few stories acknowledge that. Antidote blogger Bill Heisel discusses a few ways that you can help illuminate the estimation process for your audience.
“That simply doesn’t pass face validity" is something you'll often hear in scientific circles. Antidote's William Heisel explains why the phrase has something to teach journalists as well.
Sometimes a big percentage increase is an exciting story that your audience should hear about, but it also might be a puff of smoke obscuring a flimsy story, as recent news suggests.
Thoughtful comparisons can make all the difference for your audience. For example, the threat of Ebola in the U.S. seems scary until you compare it to drunk drivers, who killed 12,000 in the U.S. in 2014. Ebola killed two.
Sure, data from that bold new health study sounds amazing. But keep these five tips in mind before writing about it and you'll steer clear of some major reporting sinkholes.
When reporting on risk factors that shape health, it's not uncommon for critics to suggest you've confused causation with correlation. Here are three steps you can take to ensure your reporting can weather such storms of doubt.

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