Houston Public Media | Beat Reporter Submission 2023

Sara Willa Ernst, Health Reporter


Sara Willa Ernst


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Houston is home to the largest medical center in the world. But it's also a place notable for its high uninsured rate and stark health disparities. Thousands of Houstonians struggle to access primary care and mental health services or suffer from multiple chronic conditions. As the Health Reporter at Houston Public Media, Sara Willa Ernst tells stories about how healthcare policy and other factors drive these disparities, how they affect people's daily lives and how to bridge the gaps in care.

Summaries of her entries:

"Pace of Harris County home buyouts slower than hoped for after Hurricane Harvey"

For the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, Reporter Sara Willa Ernst digs into the notoriously slow and inadequate home buyouts programs in Harris County. Data acquired by a records request shows that the pace of local buyouts have dropped in recent years, even though flood risk is rising for more residents. The story explores the County's current strategy regarding home buyouts and the impact these policy decisions have on whole communities.

"Texas dialysis patients hope new state law keeps dialysis centers open during major weather events"

A look back to the deadly 2021 winter freeze. Health Reporter Sara Willa Ernst tells the story of one of the most vulnerable groups in times of disaster: dialysis patients. Many were stranded in their homes for days without life-saving treatment, as hundreds of dialysis centers closed and hospitals became overwhelmed. What has been done to guarantee access to care during the next disaster?

"Trans kids and their families are leaving Texas amid state efforts to charge parents with child abuse"

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott called for investigations into the parents of transgender children, it set off a wave of panic. Some families no longer felt safe and Health Reporter Sara Willa Ernst spoke with a couple who plans to move their family to a state with strong civil rights protections for trans people.