Here are just a few tips for you off the top of my head.
•Go to the MART (Madison Area Resource Team) meeting, also known as the Family Connection meeting, the 4th Tuesday morning of each month at the county courthouse. Get the exact time at the cooperative extension. The MART meeting will give you tons of story ideas and lead you to tons of sources, as it is a roundtable discussion for leaders of a number of community services as well as people interested in them.
•Give teen pregnancy a rest for a semester. I covered this subject to death this semester, and my sources were so kind, generous, and patient, and I would love for them to get a break from UGA journalism students.
•Don’t be sad – there are tons of stories. One I wanted to do, but never did, was the impact lack of transportation makes on public health and the delivery of health care services. Something a lot of people may not even think of. There aren’t any sidewalks or public transportation in Madison County, but there are plenty of people without cars. And the nearest hospital is nearly 30 miles away in Athens. How does transportation affect the ability to make and keep a doctor’s appointment? The health departments don’t take appointments; all services are all walk-in all the time, and part of the reason for this is the population’s difficulty keeping appts due to transportation challenges. And how about a sidewalk’s impact on physical fitness? A recent study I read about health disparities among rural people highlighted the increased obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in rural America. The study revealed, however, that rural people are no less motivated to stay in shape and eat well, but they are isolated by geography – and some by lack of transportation - so opportunities to exercise or buy nutritious foods are limited.
•On that note, find out about the stroke and heart attack prevention program at the health department. It provides real incentives for clients to lose weight, and it seems to be working.
•Quite a few active members of the community and at least a handful of public health professionals attend Jones Chapel United Methodist Church. The nurse mgr. at the health dept. has mentioned her ability to serve the needs of the community not only through the health dept. but also through her church, and I’ve heard the pastor here has been a supporter of some of the projects of the health department. If you’re so inclined, attend a service here to get to know your community.
I’m sure I’ll think of more for you. And if you have any questions for me, feel free to contact me. Good luck! This is a great assignment! Have fun!