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Good Reads: 5 Long-Form Health Stories to Inspire and Illuminate

Good Reads: 5 Long-Form Health Stories to Inspire and Illuminate

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health journalism, long-form journalism, reporting on health, barbara feder ostrov

After skimming health news and research reports day after day, I often pine for the time to savor a good long read. Here are five long-form health stories that are well worth your time.

1. Where Have All the Doctors Gone? Miller-McCune magazine, Jan. 9, 2012

Journalist Colleen Shaddox examines how medical schools are trying to encourage medical students to choose primary care, which enjoys far less prestige and money than other medical specialties yet is key to national health reform's success.

2. How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy, The Atlantic, March 2012

Kathleen McAuliffe profiles Czech scientist Jaroslav Flegr, whose unconventional ideas about toxoplasma are starting to gain currency in the international scientific community.  

Starting in the early 1990s, he began to suspect that a single-celled parasite in the protozoan family was subtly manipulating his personality, causing him to behave in strange, often self-destructive ways. And if it was messing with his mind, he reasoned, it was probably doing the same to others

if Flegr is right, the "latent" parasite may be quietly tweaking the connections between our neurons, changing our response to frightening situations, our trust in others, how outgoing we are, and even our preference for certain scents. And that's not all. He also believes that the organism contributes to car crashes, suicides, and mental disorders such as schizophrenia. When you add up all the different ways it can harm us, says Flegr, "Toxoplasma might even kill as many people as malaria, or at least a million people a year."

3. The Disciples of Memory, The Rumpus, Mar. 5, 2012

This is more memoir than journalism, but novelist Aimee Phan's account of living with her father's Alzheimer's is keenly reported and intensely moving.

4. Parkinson's Alley, Sierra Magazine, Jan.-Feb./2012

Former California Endowment Health Journalism Fellow Joy Horowitz dove deep into the links between pesticides and Parkinson's disease in rural California, even testing water for pesticide residue. While researchers know what chemicals are increasing the risk of Parkinson's, a devastating neurological disease, government officials are doing little to help, she reports. You can read more about Horowitz' reporting here.

5. The Cost of Dying, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 5, 2012

My former colleague Lisa Krieger's poignant account of her father's heavily medicalized death sparked editorials and a still-ongoing conversation with San Jose Mercury News readers about the astonishing costs of end of life care. It's beautifully written, too:

My father's story -- the final days of a frail 88-year-old with advancing dementia at the end of a long and rewarding life -- poses a modern dilemma: Just because it's possible to prolong a life, should we?

It's a story of people doing their best in a system that's built to save our loved ones. And it's a reminder of the impossibility, during a crisis, to assess costs and benefits that aren't at all obvious.

This was the lesson of my father's passing: It is easy to get quick access to world-class treatment. It's much harder to reject it.

Got good reads you'd like to share? Post them in the comments below. 

Photo credit: Daehyun Park via Flickr

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