ABC News special. [2009-02-13], A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains

Moving Image
Created: 2009


ABC News special. [2009-02-13], A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains
Summary: "For two years, a small team of ABC News producers followed the lives of families in Central Appalachia who were surviving without what most Americans take for granted. Isolated pockets in the region have three times the national poverty rate, an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the shortest life span in the nation, toothlessness, cancer and chronic depression. A half a million people here live in poverty.

"The hope for the special was to reignite a conversation that began more than 40 years ago when President Johnson launched his war on poverty from a front porch in Inez, Kentucky. How much progress has been made and what are the biggest challenges facing these families today'

"We decided to examine rural poverty after reporting extensively on America's inner cities. We quickly discovered that while infrastructure had improved, daily living conditions remained the same for many living in the hollows of Appalachia.

"The hour profiled four determined Appalachian youth living in the midst of so little: a high school football superstar who sleeps in his truck and hopes to be the first in his family to attend college; a 12-year-old who dreams of having her own bed and a cupboard full of food; an 18-year-old who must decide whether to follow in his family's footsteps and become a coalminer; and an 11-year-old battling her mother's drug addiction.

"In illustrating the region's dire health problems, Sawyer met Eula Hall, 81, nicknamed the Mother Teresa of Mud Creek, who has spent 36 years transporting the sick out of the hills and into her clinic. Another hero of the mountains was Dr. Edwin Smith; he used $150,000 of his own money to convert a truck into a mobile dental office. He stunned us with images of widespread tooth decay among children, an epidemic dentists call 'Mountain Dew Mouth' from drinking excessive amounts of the sugary soda. Dr. Smith told us of two-year-olds with 12 cavities and people putting sodas in baby bottles.

"After the program aired, Pepsico, the manufacturers of Mountain Dew, sent us a series of statements at first saying that people in these poverty-stricken areas need to improve their diets and floss but eventually meeting with Dr. Smith and providing $100,000 towards a second dental van. In October, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear referenced the 20/20 report when he unveiled a $2.2 million plan to take better care of children's teeth.

"The hour inspired strong reaction from viewers around the country. Neil Middletown, news director of WYMT-TV in Hazard, Kentucky wrote in his blog: 'Are we really mad at Diane Sawyer for reporting on a serious problem, or are we upset that someone is reminding us of images we would rather ignore? The images we saw the other night should make us all uncomfortable. Maybe we should ask ourselves, "What have I done to help correct this problem'"'

"The ABC News special was a continuation of Diane Sawyer's reporting on America's forgotten children. In recent years, she had examined the crisis of the foster care system and children living in urban poverty in Camden, New Jersey."--2009 Peabody Awards entry form.

Corporate Producers: ABC News | ABC Television Network

Persons Appearing: Diane Sawyer (Reporter)

Broadcast Date: 2009-02-13