National investigative race writer Kat Stafford had wanted to create a project about lifelong health disparities Black people face for quite some time. Taking inspiration from her reporting about the toll COVID-19 exacted upon Black Americans, she sharpened her idea and embarked on reporting a five-part series.

Driven by data and the experiences of several families, individuals and communities, “From Birth to Death” examines five health crises: infant and maternal health, childhood asthma, mental health, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s disease.      

Spanning five states (Alabama, Connecticut, Ohio, Maryland, and Virginia), each story represents a life stage: birth, childhood, teen years, adulthood and being elderly.    

Stafford, of Detroit, teamed up with video journalist Noreen Nasir and photojournalist Maye-E Wong, both of New York, for the comprehensive project that captures the health journey of Black people in America over a lifetime. The trio — along with national education writer Annie Ma, data journalist Angeliki Kastanis, illustrator Peter Hamlin, project site creator Linda Gorman, and graphics journalist Kevin Vineys — told the stories in a compelling and human way using an innovative presentation. They centered the project around the often-underrepresented voices and perspectives of Black Americans — and not just the main characters, but also Black medical experts, researchers and historians.    

Their work also delves into how systemic racism, including historical lack of access to adequate medical care and restrictions on where people could live, resulted in health disparities among Black people despite income or social class.    

The families featured in the series said they feel seen and heard for the first time.    

The innovative presentation of the project includes a site page, so audiences can experience it in one place and have a choice in how they explore the stories and formats.    

In addition, an extensive social promotion plan created by Ed Medeles, Elise Ryan and Almaz Abedje enticed readers to delve into the project.    

The series has generated at least 221,000 page views on AP digital platforms.   

Readers, medical professionals and other journalists have praised the project and shared it widely. Some professors and teachers have said they plan to teach about the project.    

Poynter highlighted the project in a newsletter. Newspapers in Detroit; York, Pennsylvania; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Fort Pierce, Florida; Stuart, Florida; Vero Beach, Florida; Searcy, Arkansas; and Westerly, Rhode Island, have run “From Birth to Death” stories on their front pages.    

News outlets and shows, including Apple News, TheGrio, NPR and “Roland Martin Unfiltered,” have interviewed Stafford about the project or requested an interview with her.    

For an innovative series that gives a fuller picture of the health disparities Black people experience in a way that resonates with a broader audience, this team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.   

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