Jan. 04, 2019
Best of the States
Only on AP: Local data, deep reporting on declining US lifespans
The nation’s health isn’t improving. In some key measures, it’s getting worse. How is that even possible in an era of genetic medicine and other advances? And how could the AP connect that story to our customers’ own neighborhoods?
AP medical writer Mike Stobbe and data journalist Nicky Forster started with those questions and delivered a winning package on why American life expectancy is getting shorter.
The package ran shortly after the release of the CDC’s annual mortality report which found that U.S. life expectancy had declined again. To find out what was behind the numbers, Stobbe returned to West Virginia, a place he declared the unhealthiest place in America 10 years ago. He connected with people trying to get healthier, witnessed the headwinds of the opioid crisis and explained how difficult it is to improve health en masse.
Forster, meanwhile, assembled an array of data that explained what was happening around the U.S. He matched longevity estimates for more than 65,000 neighborhoods with demographics, and found striking connections to income, race and education. He then built an interactive that allowed readers to see life expectancy in their own neighborhood and wrote a sidebar on the AP’s findings.
For getting beyond the numbers for a richer understanding of why American lifespans are shrinking, and giving AP customers the data to localize their stories, Stobbe and Forster win the week’s Best of the States award.