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Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports health journalism training efforts with $450,000 grant

The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the educational arm of the Association of Health Care Journalists, has been awarded a three-year grant of $450,000 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to continue offering training and resources for journalists covering health issues.

RWJF announced the grant to coincide with Health Journalism 2015. RWJF was one of the first supporters of the association, now marking its 17th year. The funding will support the association’s annual conference, regional workshops on niche health topics, an annual rural health journalism workshop and the building of health data resources on AHCJ’s website healthjournalism.org.

Thanks for attending Health Journalism 2015!

Health Journalism 2015

AHCJ’s annual conference is winding up in Santa Clara, Calif. Among the highlights have been re-connecting with colleagues, as well as the workshops, field trips and dozens of panels aimed at strengthening your coverage of health and health care issues.

Networking opportunities and resource sharing rounded out the experience.  Check out the full lineup of events, including spotlight speakers, Freelance PitchFest and exhibitors.

Watch the website for more blog posts, speaker presentations and resources from the conference in the coming days. 

Tips for pitching to top publications

Recorded March 27

In this webcast, a panel of editors explains what they need to see in a top pitch letter. You’ll need more than a winning idea. A great pitch also needs to include the right information about yourself to convince the editor that you have the chops to pull off the story you’re proposing.

Finally, the panel details exactly what they expect of writers in one-on-one pitch meetings, such as AHCJ’s annual Freelance PitchFest.   

SAVE THE DATE! Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2015

Rural Health Journalism WorkshopAHCJ’s eighth Rural Health Journalism Workshop will bring journalists together with health care and policy experts who focus on the medical challenges of rural areas.

Past topics have included vulnerable populations, rural health disparities, hunger, workforce issues, disaster preparation, challenges of rural hospitals, prescription abuse and mental health care.

This special one-day, no-fee workshop will help you find and cover health stories in rural America.

AHCJ Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism2014 winners named
in top health journalism awards

Soaring drug prices that make even copays unaffordable for many, an unchecked rise in robotic surgery, financial abuse revealed using previously secret Medicare data, and the health ramifications of the boom in hydraulic fracturing for oil were among the top winners of this year’s Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

Awards also went to articles that examined the “collateral damage” of urban violence, followed a team of doctors and scientists fighting Ebola, and exposed the growing number of unregulated diagnostic tests that can lead to patient harm.

Read the full announcement and see the winning entries. Congratulations to all of the winners!

Finding the story behind hospital mergers, consolidations

Dan Goldberg

Across the country, health systems are getting larger, gobbling up community hospitals or smaller chains. Some of this has to do with payment incentives in Obamacare, but just as much has to do with changes to Medicare, Medicaid and providers’ desire for leverage as they negotiate payments with insurance companies.

Dan Goldberg recently looked at New York's five large health systems and the strategies they were employing to diversify their revenue base while preparing to play in a post-ACA, value-based world.

In this tip sheet, he shares tips on covering hospital consolidations or mergers, including some key questions to ask and answer in your reporting.

The other part of health reform: Changing the delivery of care

Recorded March 10

The ACA is more than a way to extend health care coverage to millions of Americans. It also takes steps to shift how we deliver health care – to do a better job of managing chronic diseases, to make hospitals safer, to move away from fee-for-service, to get more quality for our health care spending. 

Patrick Conway, M.D., M.Sc., director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, joined Joanne Kenen, AHCJ’s health reform core topic leader, to describe some of what CMMI is doing and share some early results. He also broke some news about the new generation of accountable care organizations.

HOW I DID IT: Latest updates

Photo: ReSurge International via Flickr

AHCJ members can get data about medical training

In its ongoing effort to shed light on physician residency programs, AHCJ has announced a new benefit for members: Access to national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting.

AHCJ has worked with Doximity Inc. to provide members the first comprehensive national research on residency programs. Members can view national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting. Individual program data is calculated using a combination of aggregate public sources and Doximity network data.

Tips for covering scientific conferences

Mark Taylor
Mark Taylor

How can journalists make the most of their time and energy when covering a scientific or professional conference?

Mark Taylor recently attended the annual Scientific Meeting of the GSA, which featured more than 500 presentations, symposia and poster sessions. He also has covered other scientific conferences in his two decades as health care journalist, and he shares hard-earned wisdom on successfully covering such massive events. 

His tips include how to prepare before the conference, who to talk to, some key items to bring and how to plan out your coverage.

Covering how your community prevents falls, promotes safety for older adults

Liz Seegert
Liz Seegert

Every 15 seconds, an older adult falls. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and over. Additionally, the ACSM says that one in every three older adults takes a serious fall each year – resulting in more than 20,000 fatalities.

In 2012, 2.4 million nonfatal falls among older adults were treated in emergency departments, with some 722,000 of these patients hospitalized, according to statistics from the CDC. These falls resulted in direct medical costs of more than $30 billion, and those costs are expected to skyrocket to between $44 and $54 billion by 2020 as the population ages.

Image: Rex Sorgatz via flickr

Research examines impact
of soda taxes on oral health

Is there a soda tax debate coming to your community? The potential for such taxes address problems with obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are important angles to explore, but don’t forget the oral health aspect of the soda tax story.

While Berkeley, Calif., is the first city in the country to approve such a “sin” tax, it might have opened the door for other communities to do so.

Mary Otto has collected relevant research and resources for reporters who might be called on to cover soda taxes.

Tip sheet: Covering the links between housing, health

Broaden the conversation about health care to include questions about social support – especially safe, affordable and stable housing.

Megan Sandel, M.D., M.P.H., an expert on the impact of housing on child health, says journalists would do well to broaden the conversation about health care to include questions about social support – especially support for safe, affordable and stable housing. This tip sheet includes key stories to pursue and critical insights on the housing-as-health-care trend.

Six things to remember in reporting on health care costs

health care costsHealth care costs lack transparency and are wildly variable, not just from region to region but sometimes from block to block within the same city.

It is a complex topic, with chargemaster prices, what insurers paid and what consumers pay (if anything). Then there are the administrative rules set by Medicare and Medicaid and the negotiated rates between insurers and providers.

It's daunting, but three reporters have teamed up to offer guidance for reporting on health care costs.

Medicare payments data by state

The government release of information about Medicare payments to health professionals, a total of $77 billion in the single year of 2012, means unprecedented access to details of how public funds are spent. For 35 years, the data have been off limits to the public. The release has already generated stories by health journalists, with possibilities for more stories in the weeks and months ahead. To help with these stories, AHCJ has broken down the data by state in spreadsheet format for members to download.

Webcast: Finding fresh stories in newly released Medicare data

Download CMS data on hospital costs

AHCJ offers federal government data showing what hospitals across the country charge Medicare for the same treatment or procedure. The 2011 data includes bills submitted by 3,300 hospitals for the 100 most commonly performed treatments. This allows a basis for some local or regional comparisons and a starting point for stories on hospital costs.

Reporting on costs requires interview strategy, resources

The cost of medicines, devices, tests and treatment is such an important element of health reporting that it is included in AHCJ's Statement of Principles: "Strive to include information about cost and insurance coverage in any reporting of new ideas in medicine."

To that end, Brenda Goodman, AHCJ's topic leader on covering medical studies, and Michael Schroeder, who covers health for Angie's List Magazine, have contributed tip sheets to help reporters get that vital information. Goodman focuses on several resources where you might find pricing information, while Schroeder shares his strategy and the specific questions he asks sources about costs.


Association of Health Care Journalists Covering Health: An AHCJ blog

Covering the wild west of microbiome research #ahcj15
Since stool transplants have turned out to be useful in fighting deadly hospital-borne C. difficile infections, new claims about the healing powers of poop are everywhere. The slogan on panelist Jonathan Eisen’s black t-shirt, spelled out in pink glitter, captures the current entrepreneurial...

Why is it so hard to discuss end-of life-care? #ahcj15
A provocative examination of end-of-life care brought this question into sharp focus for journalists attending Health Journalism 2015. Paul Kleyman, who moderated a panel on the topic, noted that essential end-of-life elements first reported on 30 years ago – such as affordability and death with...

Verghese offers commentary on healing, even when he can’t cure #ahcj15
I used to be a Verghese virgin. I’d dipped into some of the Stanford physician’s New Yorker stories and read a few of his book reviews, but I hadn’t curled up with his nonfiction books that deal with medical care –“My Own Country” or “The Tennis Partner” – or, for that matter, his...

Reporters offer state, local story ideas for covering ACA #ahcj15
The first day of Health Journalism 2015 featured a session “The ACA: Will it survive? And how to cover it now” with Kaiser Health News’s Julie Appleby and Vox’s Sarah Kliff. Their major themes included: The King v. Burwell Supreme Court case over federal subsidies What’s next in Congress?...

VA secretary addresses some of department’s challenges #ahcj15
More than 140 journalists at Health Journalism 2015 gathered early Friday to hear Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald – and to question him about VA policies, including the agency’s notorious opaqueness with reporters. McDonald readily acknowledged that the VA has had what he called a...


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