KFF’s Kaiser Health News, Associated Press Win Online News Association Award for Investigative Data Journalism

Joint Investigation Examined How the Nation’s Decades-long Neglect of Public Health Infrastructure Hampered its Covid-19 Response

The Online News Association has named KFF’s Kaiser Health News and The Associated Press winners of its 2021 University of Florida Award in Investigative Data Journalism for their joint project “Underfunded and Under Threat.” The award is one of the highest honors in data journalism.

The joint KHN-AP investigation revealed that public health departments around the country had become understaffed and poorly equipped to confront the worst pandemic in a century. Their analysis found that at least 38,000 state and local public health jobs disappeared since 2008, and spending for local public health departments dropped by 18% per capita since 2010.

The joint KHN-AP investigation revealed that public health departments around the country had become understaffed and poorly equipped to confront the worst pandemic in a century. Their analysis found that at least 38,000 state and local public health jobs disappeared since 2008, and spending for local public health departments dropped by 18% per capita since 2010.

Journalists from both news organizations drew upon more than a dozen data sources to assess hundreds of state and local health departments. Reporters interviewed more than 150 people, surveyed all 50 statehouses, filed dozens of records requests and sorted through legislation across the country.

Even during the height of the coronavirus crisis, many states spent little of their federal covid-19 relief funding on public health departments, and state legislatures continued to undermine the public health system with budget cuts.

KHN and AP also followed the story throughout the pandemic, showing how the politicization of public health measures prompted physical threats against public health workers, with the backlash triggering the largest exodus of public health leaders in American history and a massive legislative rollback of public health powers.

AP and KHN also routinely shared data and offered guidance to news organizations to help them localize the findings of the investigation for their communities. The award — one of many KHN has received over the years — honors work that effectively uses data to tell a story, presents that data well to users and has relevance and journalistic impact.

About KFF and KHN

KHN (Kaiser Health News) is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues. Together with Policy Analysis and Polling, KHN is one of the three major operating programs at KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is an endowed nonprofit organization providing information on health issues to the nation.

About AP

The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting. Founded in 1846, AP today remains the most trusted source of fast, accurate, unbiased news in all formats and the essential provider of the technology and services vital to the news business. More than half the world’s population sees AP journalism every day.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.