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Pulitzer Center Update November 22, 2023

Webinar On-Demand: ‘Telling New Kinds of Global Health Stories’

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REBUILDING TRUST SHATTERED by institutional neglect and misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic is at the heart of the stories told by Pulitzer Center grantees Bukola Adebayo, Mahima Jain, and Jason McLure.

“Somebody tells me something and I think there’s a way to make this matter not just to that one person, but for [other] people to care about it,” said Adebayo. Her most recent project, The Poisoned Wells of Baruwa, investigated protracted health issues resulting from oil extraction in the Nigerian district.

“In these spaces,” said Jain, who reported on gender-based violence in India with Pulitzer Center support and frequented hospitals and shelters, “I actually found [subjects] trusting me [...] because I was writing about their health care issues rather than just their stories of violence [...]. They were willing to talk about how they overcame their challenges and issues in their lives.”

Jain has worked with sources to make them feel more invested in the storytelling process. “It used to take a lot of convincing,” she said, but now “I’ve seen more people share their stories.”

“The most effective journalism starts with a great story involving a person,” said McLure, who reported with The Examination, Der Spiegel, Initium Media, and the Pulitzer Center on China Tobacco, the Chinese state-run tobacco company.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists like McLure had a harder time securing editorial support for stories that tracked the casualties and externalities that “have enormous impacts on people’s health, but [...] often aren’t felt for years or even decades.” He added, “That’s why I think the nonprofit news model and funding like the Pulitzer Center are very useful for telling these kinds of stories.”

Adebayo emphasized that after COVID-19, people realized that what might seem like a blip at first, such as rising hospital admissions in Hubei Province, could mark the beginning of the next global disaster. “I’m not just going to leave it,” she tells sources, “I’m going to follow it up. There’s interest. It has been supported by the Pulitzer Center [...]. I’m invested in this story.”

“With more interest comes more responsibility." said Adebayo. "You need to be much more sensitive about your narrative. You need to make it digestible. You need to bring your readers down to it, you need to make it count. And you want to follow it up because you just don’t know.”

While COVID-19 has elevated public health reporting, Adebayo, Jain, and McLure still face challenges. Authoritarian regimes in countries like Nigeria, India, and China are retooling regulatory bodies for political convenience and stalling transparency efforts. “It’s affected people in all different forms of civil society,” said McLure.

Still, said Adebayo, her stories must be framed as a public health issue to hold governments and stakeholders accountable. “If you do the math,” she said, “your public health systems are more overwhelmed by problems you could have prevented instead of having to compensate for them.” This kind of reporting helps stakeholders “get ahead of the problem,” according to Adebayo.

The media play an important role in aligning the interests of the powerful with the health of ordinary people. An audience member asked Jain how she implements solutions journalism in her reporting. In a world where there may be little fanfare about getting ahead of public health crises before they develop, Jain replied that she tries to “place [...] solution[s] in a wider context, and see whether it’s scalable, whether it’s effective, whether it’s reaching a lot of people or not. [...] A solutions story can also be very critical.”

Reflecting on the webinar, aid worker Christine Kyarikunda said, “I’m interested in how to tell health-related stories without putting our colleagues at risk. This session helped illuminate challenges I hope can help inform our strategies.”

Thank you to Bukola Adebayo, Mahima Jain, and Jason McLure for your thoughtful participation.


This project explores the health and environmental consequences for residents in Baruwa.

Two women sit in an exam room in India.

High levels of gender-based violence and poor access to health care are intrinsically related.


global health reporting initiative


Global Health Inequities

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