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Looking ahead:
A reporters’ guide to Children’s Dental Health Month

Recorded Jan. 27

In advance of Children’s Dental Health Month, which is February, we will discuss the latest research on oral health and how it may impact policy in the states. Shelly Gehshan, director of children's dental policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts will provide perspective on oral health programs that are making a difference and the issues that may provide barriers to improving dental health.

Stories include how a program in North Carolina has improved children’s oral health by utilizing doctors to help apply fluoride varnish. Gehshan also will discuss the benefits of dental sealant programs and some of the things at the state level that prevent these programs from reaching more children.

Apply for a fellowship to attend Health Journalism 2015

Health Journalism 2015

A number of fellowships to help journalists attend AHCJ's annual conference are being offered.

Check out our general outline of events for Health Journalism 2015, scheduled for April 23-26 in Santa Clara, Calif. Information is provided on registration, the conference hotel, travel instructions and our growing list of sponsors.

The conference will once again feature dozens of panel sessions, workshops field trips, a Freelance PitchFest and the annual awards luncheon.

Take advantage of the early-bird discount to save on conference registration fees.

Elder abuse and health: What you should know

Tune in Feb. 2

Elder abuse affects an estimated one in 10 older adults in the U.S., according to the National Center on Elder Abuse. Advocates say much more can and should be done – such as the recent $4 million Congressional appropriation for a portion of the Elder Justice Act as part of the FY2015 Omnibus spending bill.

The many forms of physical and psychological abuse seriously affect older adults’ health and wellbeing. What is being done about it and how can reporters bring more of these issues to light in their own communities?

To find out, join Liz Seegert, AHCJ’s core topic leader on aging, and Bob Blancato, national coordinator of the Elder Justice Coalition, for our webcast.

HOW I DID IT: Latest updates

Photo: SalFalko via Flickr

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.

What reporters need to know about covering Ebola

AHCJ webcast
Recorded Nov. 11

Media audiences far away from west Africa are seeing more and more Ebola-related stories in their own states or communities. What do reporters need to know?

AHCJ members got some help sorting out the answers to that question in a webcast with Alexander P. Isakov, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of Emory University’s Critical Event Preparedness and Response. Emory has treated four Ebola patients. Mike Stobbe, medical writer for The Associated Press, posed members' questions to our guest.

Participants heard insights into the facts of Ebola that reporters should know, leaving with better understanding of the topic, story ideas and reliable resources.

Five journalists named 2015 Reporting Fellows on Health Care Performance

The Association of Health Care Journalists has awarded five journalists AHCJ Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance for work to be completed in 2015. The program, in its fifth year, is meant to help journalists understand and report on the performance of local health care markets and the U.S. health system as a whole.

The fellowship program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, is intended to give experienced print, broadcast and online reporters an opportunity to concentrate on the performance of health care systems – or significant parts of those systems – locally, regionally or nationally. The fellows are able to examine policies, practices and outcomes, as well as the roles of various stakeholders.

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.

AHCJ webcastWebcasts

Fluoridation and your community

Recorded Oct. 16
Community water fluoridation has been hailed as one of the public health triumphs of the 20th century. Numerous studies have shown fluoride at optimum levels reduces cavities. But critics continue to fight water fluoridation efforts, armed with papers they say highlight the dangers of fluoride.

With battles playing out in communities from Alabama to Oregon, what do reporters need to know about the science and pseudo-science behind water fluoridation? Learn more from Shelly Gehshan, director of  children's dental policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Mary Otto, AHCJ's oral health core topic leader. 

How will states prepare for second ACA enrollment season?

Recorded Sept. 23
Joanne Kenen, AHCJ's topic leader on health reform, discussed the upcoming second enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act with Heather H. Howard of the State Health Reform Assistance Network, including what journalists should watch for and what stories to expect to cover.

Frailty and its impact on health 

Recorded Sept. 16
Frail people are those whose bodies are wearing down and whose reserves of stamina and energy are being depleted, making them more vulnerable to all kinds of adverse outcomes. Join Samuel Christopher Durso, M.D., head of geriatrics at Johns Hopkins, and Liz Seegert, AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, for a discussion of the issue and what and how reporters might cover it in their region.

Breaking down barriers to care

Recorded Aug. 14
Covering health care requires writing about the cost of care. Determining if costs are rising or falling and by how much is an integral part of the beat.

But A. Mark Fendrick, M.D., the director of the Center for Value-Based Insurance Design at the University of Michigan, suggests it’s time to shift the discussion from how much the United States spends on care to how well we spend money on health care.

Is your community fighting tooth decay with school-based dental sealant programs?

Applying sealantsHave you visited a school-based dental sealant program in your state or community? There may be a good story there.

Can’t find one to visit? That may be another worthwhile story.

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that are applied to children’s permanent back teeth to seal the narrow grooves on the chewing surfaces and keep out decay-causing bacteria and food particles. Studies show that the procedure can reduce the incidence of tooth decay by 60 percent.

But poor and high-risk kids who could benefit the most from sealants are not always receiving them. 

Use data to cover the Affordable Care Act

Katherine HempsteadThe Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has six databases on its "Reform by the Numbers" website that can be useful for reporters covering health care. In an exclusive briefing at an AHCJ New York chapter meeting in June 2014, the Foundation's Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., discussed the highlights of the databases.

The databases can answer many questions, such as whether consumers are having trouble paying their sky-high deductibles or whether waiting lines are growing at doctors’ offices. Want to know how your state exchange differs from others? This data can help. Hempstead also offers ideas for stories that can be mined from the data no matter your technical abilities.

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

NIH cautions older adults, caregivers to be vigilant about hypothermia
Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature that may result in long term, serious health problems such as a heart attack, kidney or liver damage, or death. Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their body’s response to cold is often diminished by underlying ...

Vapor from e-cigarettes triggers changes to cells in lab study
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes are growing in popularity among American adults, and while some states restrict their use by minors, nearly 1.8 million American middle and high school students reported using them one recent year, a federal study found. The battery-powered devices work by ...

Adequacy, transparency of provider networks among things to watch
At a recent San Francisco Bay Area chapter event, health journalists received a primer on the narrowing networks of current health plans and the delicate balance between managing health care costs and providing reasonable access. Panelists Anne Price, director of the Plan Management Division ...

A sampling of perspectives on Brill’s take on health reform
I’m sure a lot of you have Steven Brill’s “America’s Bitter Pill” on your bedside table by now – I’m not going to try to recap it here. But I did want to share a few links to some of the more thoughtful (or provocative) articles and reviews, representing critics on both the left and ...

Reporter finds nonprofit hospital’s suit against uninsured patient was just one of many
In January 2012, EMTs took Ignacio Alaniz by helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of the largest nonprofit medical centers in Texas. Alaniz had been working underneath his Buick Century, trying to get it started. When it rolled over him, he suffered a punctured lung, nine fractured ribs and ...


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