A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

SDX Awards: Radio feature reporting, Richard Knox, Rebecca Davis, Joe Neel

By Quill

Traditionally, health-care programs for the homeless focused on caring for acute problems, such as pneumonia, broken bones and heart attacks.

“A sort of patch-’em-up-and-send-’em-back-out-to-the-streets philosophy,” said National Public Radio health and science correspondent Richard Knox.

Recent changes, however, show such programs addressing chronic problems in the homeless population. Boston Health Care for the Homeless created a new program to provide care for diabetes.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that’s heroic!’ since caring for diabetes and preventing the complications of diabetes is a difficult problem even for people with insurance and relatively stable lives – much less people who are homeless.”

Knox profiled Donald Cooper, a homeless diabetic in Boston, to personalize the story about the program.

“For Homeless, New Hope in Health Care” follows Cooper’s experience with his doctor.

“Not only do listeners get to know this homeless man and his caregivers,” said Knox, “they get a glimpse of a program working against stiff odds to provide quality care to a difficult population with a potentially devastating chronic disease.”

Good morning, this is Donald Cooper. I’m homeless. And I have diabetes, and my physician has recommended me that I will be going to the insulin part of diabetes soon. And really I’m not looking forward to it. But I’ll do it because it means my health. So, hopefully, the next time I talk to you everything will be more better. Thank you.

Knox’s work followed Cooper through seven weeks of care, hearing Cooper overcome his fear of self-injection and invest new hope in his future.

The 17-minute mini-documentary shows that programs, such as the one set in Boston, can provide quality care to a homeless person with a disease as complex as diabetes.

“Without a doubt, the most gratifying aspect (of this feature) was listeners’ comments,” said Knox. “They told us that many people really did get engaged with Donald Cooper and his story – and were moved by it. Hopefully they came away with new insights about what it means to be homeless and diabetic – and how important it is that homeless people get good care too. That’s what it’s all about.”