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Get ready for Health Journalism 2015!

Health Journalism 2015

AHCJ’s annual conference is set for April 23-26 in Santa Clara, Calif., and will feature workshops, field trips and dozens of panels aimed at strengthening your coverage of health and health care issues.

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

Advance registration has closed but you will be able to register when you arrive at the conference. 

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

Native American tribe wields sales tax to promote healthier eating
Hoping to encourage healthier eating habits, leaders of the Navajo Nation have imposed a potentially precedent-setting tax on junk food and sodas. The 27,000-square-mile territory, which extends into Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, as of April 1 added a 2-cent sal                        ...

Change to Medicare will shift physicians into value-based payment
President Obama signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 into law on Thursday afternoon, in what experts say could be the most significant change in Medicare’s 50-year history. The law, part of a bipartisan deal to eliminate the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula that...

Why reporters should check the data in a ‘brief’
A recent data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 23 percent increase in the age-adjusted hypertension-related death rate from 2000 to 2013. In that same period, the rate for all other causes of death combined decreased 21 percent. The report, “Hypertension-related...

NYT maps how high health gaps lower the odds
The impact of “income inequality” has been given a closer examination since the recession and is teeing up as a potential catchphrase in the 2016 election. While poorer pockets of the United States is a well-known factor that can lead to poor health (among other issues), less clear has been the...

IOM: Take action to improve cognitive health in non-AD older adults
A new report from the Institute of Medicine identifies the three key actions people can take to help maintain optimal cognitive function as they age. Physical activity, reducing and managing cardiovascular disease risk, and regularly reviewing medications and their side effects with their...


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