Thursday, March 11, 2010

Family Connection Meeting

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

As soon as I tell anyone what I am doing in Madison County, they respond – without pause – “Teen pregnancy. That’s the health issue in Madison County.”

It was first mentioned to me in a meeting at the cooperative extension with Leigh Anne Aaron, county extension agent, and Debbie Phillips, county program coordinator.

I admit, my first thought was, Yeah, yeah, sure. What else have you got? To my mind, it was a retro-topic. The stuff of after-school specials. I wanted something sexier.

About a week later, I went to the Family Connection meeting at the chamber of commerce (see image) – a monthly summit of the representatives of a handful of county resources. Around a large conference table sat the county nurse manager; a representative from a community garden organization; the coach of a baseball team for children with special needs and the mother of a player; a parent representative of PRIDE, a safe driving program for teens; and, finally, a parent representative from the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition and, announced in absentia due to the flu, Melanie Berryman, the leader of Madison County High School’s Teen Parent Support Group. Of the handful of focused issues represented at the meeting, teen pregnancy was the only one that was repeated.

I had come to this meeting to find another story idea. Then, as if I hadn’t eaten my vegetables the night before, here they were waiting for me at the breakfast table.

Teen pregnancy was not what I thought I’d be writing about, but now it seemed wrong not to. I knew I wanted to write about the health concerns that mattered most in this county. Who was I to decide which issues were “cool enough to matter”?

The media have the power to make health issues seem to disappear when they are no longer in fashion. But what if journalists continued to cover an issue as long as it continued to be an issue – covering the story until it disappeared, rather than forcibly making it disappear?

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