2016 Large Newspaper - Gold


In a heartbreaking story about the stillbirth of their son, Mikki, journalists Jop de Vrieze and Zvezdana Vukojevic searched for answers within the Dutch system of prenatal care that might have helped prevent their son’s death. They delved into scientific articles, medical guidelines, policy documents, parliamentary papers and internal documents, and spoke to more than 30 sources. Infant mortality has been a topic of considerable discussion in The Netherlands since a 2003 study found the nation’s infant mortality rate was among the highest in the European Union. Midwives have an autonomous position and are the standard health care professionals for low-risk pregnancies in the Netherlands. Due to the high mortality rate, midwives were forced to establish more regular consultations with gynecologists. The number of stillbirths decreased from 7.7 per thousand in 2000 to 5.3 per thousand by 2013, but a specialist at the University of Groningen said a fifth of stillbirths in the country are still avoidable. Mikki likely suffered from intrauterine growth restriction, with a placenta too small to keep providing him energy during his growth. De Vrieze and Vukojevic described efforts to better monitor fetal growth and to scientifically evaluate the methods used. They noted that the Dutch midwives association recently withdrew support for a system where midwives and gynecologists would work together on risk selection at birthing centers closely aligned with hospitals. Nancy Shute, a health and medicine reporter for NPR, said the story by de Vrieze and Vukojevic led them to an understanding of “why science doesn’t always drive health care.” Christina Horsten, a correspondent for Deutsche Presse-Agentur ─ a German news agency ─ called the piece a “beautiful, gut-wrenching and deeply touching piece of writing that highlights a very important issue.” Vukojevic and de Vrieze talked with colleagues about whether it would be appropriate for them to write about their son’s stillbirth, and concluded that the perspective of the parents was an essential part of a thoroughly researched story. “This award recognizes that such a personal involvement can result not just in a touching, human story, but also in balanced, in-depth and urgent science journalism as well,” the couple said.  

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