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Awards for Excellence in Health Care JournalismAwards for Excellence
in Health Care Journalism

Enter your best work of the year to be recognized by the premier contest for health journalism. Since 2004, the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism have recognized the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media.

First-place winners earn $500 and a framed certificate. They also receive complimentary lodging for two nights and registration for the annual conference, April 7-10, 2016, in Cleveland.

TODAY: Dec. 1
Take advantage of the discounted entry fee.

AHCJ webcast

The Healthspan Imperative:
New frontiers in science of aging

Dec. 2, 12:30 p.m. ET
Today, average life expectancy is almost 80 years. But, while we’ve added years to life we haven’t always made those extra years healthy and vigorous. 

A new frontier in science is revealing the “problem behind the problem” of chronic disease. “Geroscience” is the study of how the underlying processes of aging itself put us at risk to develop chronic disease. And it is on its way to modifying those processes through new medical strategies that could benefit millions.

Previous AHCJ webcasts:
♦ How consumers can evaluate physician quality
♦ Using NARMS Now, a CDC data tool on antibiotic resistance
♦ An examination of bundled payment
♦ Data to cover insurance under the ACA
♦ Tips for pitching to top publications

Registration is open for Health Journalism 2016

Local and national planning committees are working on the program for AHCJ's annual conference. Health Journalism 2016 is planned for April 7-10 in Cleveland, home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

AHCJ's premier event will feature newsmaker briefings so you can send breaking news back to your news outlet. Take advantage of workshops and panels designed to help you build your skills and find story ideas.

For a chance to meet some top editiors in the business, plan to sign up for the ever-popular Freelance PitchFest. Take field trips to area facilities and learn about cutting-edge technology.

Celebrate your work and that of your colleagues at the annual Awards Luncheon and meet AHCJ's board of directors at the membership meeting.

Timely tip sheet:
Communicating the problems with cancer overdiagnosis

With the recent announcement of the American Cancer Society’s change in mammography and breast cancer screening guidelines, the question of when women should get screened is back in the spotlight.

In this new tip sheet, freelance writer Bonny McClain offers a primer on the issue of overdiagnosis and overtreatment, based on her attendance at the Preventing Diagnosis conference in September. For journalists new to the issue and trying to wrap their heads around why overdiagnosis occurs and what to keep in mind when reporting on screening, her tips provide an excellent overview of an incredibly complex issue.

Learn how to use CDC data tool on antibiotic resistance

AHCJ webcast

Learn how to use a database and visualization tool that makes it quicker and easier to see how antibiotic resistance for four bacteria transmitted commonly through food has changed during the past 18 years.

The tool allows users to access antibiotic resistance data by bacteria, antibiotic, year (1996-2013), and geographic region. It displays data on an interactive map or in tables. NARMS Now is designed to provide access to the most up-to-date antibiotic resistance results by uploading data regularly.

EBM logoWorkshop on evidence-based medicine

Oct. 29 & 30 in Washington, D.C.

Journalists can always dig deeper – and AHCJ offered this opportunity to develop more evidence-based skills to evaluate and report on medical research sent out in press releases, published or presented at conferences.

With a roster of seasoned health journalists, medical research experts and statistical mavens, reporters gained story ideas and resources to pursue those stories.

Read about the workshop and download speakers' presentations.

HOW I DID IT: Latest updates

robotic surgery
Photo: Fort Belvoir Community Hospital via Flickr

 AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research

First class of Comparative Effectiveness Research Fellows named

Twelve journalists have been chosen for the inaugural class of the AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research.

The fellowship program was created with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to help reporters and editors produce more accurate in-depth stories on medical research and how medical decisions are made.

Tip sheet: Tracking geographic disparities in organ transplants

David WahlbergWhen it comes to organ transplants, where people live has a lot to do with when they receive care.

David Wahlberg, a health reporter at the Wisconsin State Journal, explored geographic disparities in access to kidney and liver transplants in May in the first part of an ongoing series, “Living On: Improving The Odds of Organ Transplants,” supported by an AHCJ Fellowship on Health Care Performance.

In this tip sheet, Wahlberg offers AHCJ members tips on how to look at the organ transplantation divide for their readers.

Freelancers' Center:
Resources just for independent journalists

Freelance PitchFest at Health Journalism 2015Writers pitch their story ideas to editors during the Freelance Pitchfest at Health Journalism 2015. (Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ)

AHCJ's re-vamped Freelancers' Corner offers resources and advice on topics that our independent members often deal with.

Get tips on pitching to publications, what to look for in contracts, how to make sure you're insured properly, developing business plans and handling finance. Learn more about how and where to spend precious time networking, as well as valuable information about how to build your brand. Successful and experienced members will offer nuggets of advice in our "Shared Wisdom" feature.

The new – and growing – Freelance Market Guide tells AHCJ’s freelancers what assigning editors at specific outlets are looking for from writers. These editors have been kind enough to share the mission of their outlets and set some parameters for pitching ideas.

There is a wealth of information gathered to help you get that next assignment.

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.

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.

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.

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 and Michael Schroeder 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

Supreme Court case could affect states’ efforts to develop big-claims databases
Here’s a story that’s easy to overlook but could affect the future of health care cost and quality management. On Dec. 1, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual, a case that could determine whether states can include data from employer-sponsored health plans...

Recent headlines examine impact of racial disparities on cancer, longevity
First there was the “dubious milestone,” as The New York Times called it, of black women for the first time facing an equal rate of breast cancer as white women. Then last week, a headline on the sharp uptick in the death rate among middle-class, white Americans, a finding startling enough to...

Are we nearing the end of traditional medical journal articles?
Lots of challenges have faced medical publishing as the Internet has evolved. From predatory journals to the rise of open access journals to the simple fact that the stacks and stacks of physical paper journals are depleting, removing a long-time key funding source. In one recent article –...

Expert panel highlights cognitive aging risk factors, prevention
Medications — including many over-the-counter drugs —  are among the greatest contributors to accelerated cognitive decline in older adults, according to experts at the recent Gerontological Society of America conference in Orlando, Fla. Yet, they are probably the most frequent reversible...

‘Freezing’ cavities a potential alternative to ‘drill-and-fill’
A routine dental checkup for a Baltimore 4-year-old turned into a health care odyssey for his mother. It all began when a dentist told Heather Powell that her son Eli had several cavities, and would need to go under general anesthesia to have eight crowns placed on his back teeth. “I could not...


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