Spreading the word about the aftermath of a child death

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Evermore’s founder to speak at journalism conference

Raising the visibility about the long-lasting effects on parents and siblings after a child dies is a central goal for Evermore, and Joyal Mulheron, Evermore’s founder and executive director, will do just that when she addresses healthcare journalists in early May.

Mulheron will attend the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference in Baltimore and participate in a workshop-style session aimed at helping reporters recognize that the far-reaching impact of a child’s death is an urgent public health crisis.

Health Journalism 2019 will draw hundreds of the country’s top healthcare reporters to Baltimore for three-and-a-half days of workshops, panels, roundtables and field trips that cover the latest topics in medical science, health policy, public health, medical education, consumer health and the business of healthcare, according to the association’s website.

“There is so much coverage, and rightly so, about child death, but there is often very little follow-up about what happens to grieving families,” Mulheron said. “We’re eager for the opportunity to share what we know about the aftermath and why this is truly an invisible public health crisis.”

During the workshop, Mulheron will share her expertise and information about researchers and other sources where reporters can get more information for stories they may be working on.

After a child’s death, studies show that grieving parents are more likely to suffer from depression, marital disruption, psychiatric hospitalization and premature death. For siblings, researchers also link the death of a brother or sister to a higher risk for agitated depression, chronic illness, guilt, lower self-esteem and performance at work and school and premature death.

At the same time, there is little safety net for families who need time to mourn their child. The Family and Medical Leave Act, for example, does not list child loss as a qualifying event for job protection, and more than half of employers allow their workers to take just three days of paid leave to grieve a child.

“These are the kinds of eye-opening issues and statistics that I plan to share during the workshop,” Mulheron said. “We hope that the information will encourage journalists at the conference to start looking more deeply at this very important issue.”

The panel will be moderated by Jayne O’Donnell, the award-winning healthcare policy reporter for USA Today. O’Donnell has explored the causes of child death in her work and was behind a series of articles in 1996 that prompted the federal government to make airbags safer for children. O’Donnell first wrote about Mulheron and her work in 2016.

Two other guests will join Mulheron:

Brie Zeltner is a health reporter at the Cleveland Plain Dealer with an interest in the lifelong health effects of poverty on children and families. She has written extensively about lead poisoning and infant mortality.

George Hobor is a program officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a New Jersey-based nonprofit focused on health. He works to promote healthy and more equitable communities, “using the power of data and research to find solutions to social-economic conditions that affect community health, such as residential segregation, housing security, and social mobility,” according to the foundation’s website.

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