Translate page with Google

Pulitzer Center Update November 17, 2023

Venezuelan Journalist Ricardo Barbar Speaks on Health Inequality in Chicago, D.C., Baltimore

A woman stands in a wooded area with her hands on her hips.

This is Prodavinci’s in-depth coverage relating to the myth of public and free health care in...

author #1 image author #2 image
Multiple Authors
Man in white shirt gestures to class next to woman in black jacket
Ricardo Barbar speaks to photojournalism students at American University. Images by Mikaela Schmitt. United States, 2023.

“I’m a journalist because I don’t want anyone to have to tell this story to the next generation,” said Venezuelan journalist and grantee Ricardo Barbar. “I want there to be testimony of what is happening so no one can tell the people of the coming generations lies of what is going on.” 

In November 2023, Barbar visited four Campus Consortium partners and multiple K-12 classrooms, speaking with 375 students in both Spanish and English about his country’s failing health care system and the Pulitzer Center-supported project by Prodavinci, Exposing Inequalities

Barbar discussed how his team at Prodavinci goes about reporting under the context of authoritarianism, sharing their innovative methods to discover stories and highlighting their partnerships to distribute them to local audiences. 

“How do we work in a country with no data available?” Barbar asked. “We found a creative way to take the tiny bit of information we have and find and tell a story with it. Testimony is often looked down upon because it is not data, but it is often the only thing we have and it is powerful.” 

Group of people stand together.

In Chicago, Barbar visited City Colleges of Chicago, a Pulitzer Center Campus Consortium partner. He presented first to students at Truman College. Then, at Malcom X, he chatted with students and community health workers, talking them through the process of getting treatment in Venezuela, and answering questions about how the local community has adapted in response to the deteriorating systems. 

At LaSalle II Magnet School, Barbar visited eighth-grade social studies and Spanish classes. He walked students through exercises to explain the difference in procedures to obtain health care in Venezuela versus in the United States. In one class, he and the students navigated his interactive story on how water is made drinkable. Students were encouraged to think through the easiest ways to communicate life-saving information with local communities. 

Man calls on student in a classroom.

When explaining the price of goods compared with income in Venezuela, Barbar placed things in context for students by sharing that the cup of coffee he bought that morning in Chicago cost about the same as it would have in Venezuela. However, in Venezuela, the average income for a worker is $161 a month. 

Barbar then traveled to D.C., where he spoke with both first-year and photojournalism students at American University. He took students through an exercise to investigate the cause of an outbreak of a mysterious flu, based on a real story from Venezuela. He gradually revealed more information, asking students what they would have done next to investigate the illness spreading through a community. Students worked through roadblocks and brainstormed innovative investigative techniques, as Barbar continually reminded them they wouldn’t have access to traditional data or governmental support.

During a visit to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Barbar spoke with Venezuelan professors and public health students from a variety of backgrounds. He depicted the conditions in Venezuelan hospitals, detailing the lack of access to supplies, vital technology, and experts, and the unaffordability of the so-called “public” and “free” health system. 

Man and woman stand at podium in front of screen.

Barbar spoke at a Research and Practice Seminar at George Washington University's Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C. He encouraged the global health students to not be afraid of the “unsexy” or complicated stories.

“I like to use storytelling techniques to bring readers along,” he said, advising students to incorporate elements of literature into their science writing.

Barbar shared that his newsroom used to have more support and resources, because there was international interest in the crisis in Venezuela. However, as other conflicts arise elsewhere in the world, there is less attention on the problems in Venezuela, and additional innovation is required to report on these topics. 

He also visited four local K-12 schools while in D.C., engaging with bilingual and English language learning students. Students were excited to have the option to speak with a journalist in both languages, which aided in making these complex stories more accessible for students from all backgrounds.  


global health reporting initiative


Global Health Inequities

Global Health Inequities


navy halftone illustration of a female doctor with her arms crossed


Health Inequities

Health Inequities