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Ryan Meili
Ryan Meili

Avoid ‘Trinity Trap’ when reporting on health

Health care is but one element of what makes the biggest difference in health outcomes – social factors play a far more significant role. Income and its distribution, education, employment, social supports, housing, nutrition, and the wider environment are the most powerful predictors of wellness and longevity.

So why is it that, when we talk about health promotion, we still get stuck talking about the "Trinity Trap" of smoking, diet and exercise when we know that social factors have the biggest influence on health outcomes? Family doctor and medical professor Ryan Meili discusses the importance of understanding the social determinants of health. 


Family Caregiving: View from the front row

April 29, 1 p.m. ET
What is it really like to be a family caregiver for someone with dementia or serious illness? What are some of the key issues that aren't being discussed? And how can journalists better bring untold caregiver stories to light? 

Join us for a webcast featuring Kathleen Kelly, executive director of the  National Center on Caregiving, Family Caregiver Alliance; Karen Garner, a wife, mother, and caregiver to a husband diagnosed at age 48 with younger-onset Alzheimer's; Sally Abrahms, an award-winning writer and blogger on boomers and caregiving for AARP and other media; and moderator Liz Seegert, AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. There will be plenty of time for the speakers to address questions from the participants.

Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2014

Rural Health Journalism WorkshopThe preliminary program for AHCJ’s seventh Rural Health Journalism Workshop is now available.

Attend this free workshop to get a better understanding of what’s happening – or will be happening – in rural regions, and return to work with dozens of story ideas you can pursue.

Members can sign up today. If you aren't an AHCJ member, join now to take advantage of this free training opportunity.

Webcast: Finding fresh stories in newly released Medicare data

Recorded April 9
CMS released payment information for individual doctors and AHCJ hosted a webcast to help reporters find the stories in the data.

The data includes details of Medicare payments to individual physicians and other health care professionals. The details will include the number and type of services provided, and the amount paid for those services delivered in 2012.

Journalists can use this data to help consumers to make more informed choices about the care they receive. AHCJ has long advocated for the release of this data.

Covering hospital ratings?
Here's one aspect consumers need to know

Tony Leys
Tony Leys

Hospital-ratings agencies portray themselves as champions of transparency when it comes to information about health-care quality. But consumers should know that hospitals pay substantial fees for permission to run ads about awards they receive from services such as Healthgrades, U.S. News & World Report and the Leapfrog Group.

Reporter Tony Leys explains the arrangements, including how much some hospitals pay to use the rankings in their marketing efforts and how to find out what hospitals in your area are paying. It just might change how you cover hospital awards and ratings.

Health Journalism 2014

Health Journalism 2014

Dozens of sessions featured world-class health experts and leading health journalists exploring the latest in health news and how to cover it. More than 650 attendees gathered for the world’s most important gathering and training event in health care journalism.

Thank you for attending the conference!

If you write about the conference or use sources and resources you learned about there, please send links to your stories to pia@healthjournalism.org. And see what your colleagues have written about it.

Using data from exchanges, journalists report on true cost
of health insurance

When the exchanges opened on Oct. 1, journalists found a trove of stories worth reporting on the cost of health insurance. But they also found that simply reporting on the premiums that consumers paid was only part of the story.

Reporters at Crain’s Chicago Business offered their readers a more nuanced picture of what they might actually pay for each metal level by year end. Similarly, reporters for the St. Paul Pioneer Press and its parent company, Digital First Media, uncovered disparities in how the subsidies were working and dug deeper to report on these issues. Each story affords health care journalists plenty of ideas about how they can offer deeper coverage of the health insurance cost issue.

Congratulations to 2013 award winners

AHCJ webcast

An investigation that found criminals running diet supplement companies, a series revealing the failure of hospitals to provide life-saving newborn screening tests and an examination of efforts to prevent childhood deaths in Africa and Asia were among the top winners of this year’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism.

There were a record number of entries this year. Winners were recognized at the annual awards luncheon of Health Journalism 2014 in Denver on March 29. Read more about the awards and the winners.

Jonathan Latham, Ph.D.

Are you covering a fakethrough?

Remember the burger grown from stem cells? It might be a great idea, except a single patty grown using today's technology, at least, cost a whopping $332,000.

Here, Jonathan Latham, Ph.D., the executive director of the Bioscience Resource Project, asks whether discoveries like that are breakthroughs or "fakethroughs" – scientific advances that will never progress to new treatments or beneficial products.

He also talks about his brand of investigative science journalism and why reporting on new discoveries should probably be more muted.

Craft a memorable pitch and get that assignment

AHCJ webcast

How can a writer, who's new to a publication, craft such an impressive pitch, that even if the story doesn't sell, keeps the door wide open for next time?

In this webcast, "Beyond the basics of pitching: Becoming that dream writer," a panel of top editors talk about pitches they loved and could not walk away from. 

Make your pitch communicate the story you want to tell, and impress editors in the process. 

Download CMS data on hospital costs

AHCJ is now offering 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.

Evaluate, report on quality of hospitals in your area

State-by-state breakdown of how patients rate hospitals, according to the HHS Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems

Graphic via OpenHeatMap

AHCJ offers hospital mortality and readmission data, which will allow you to tell your audience whether a hospital's rates are in line with national averages, significantly better or significantly worse. A special AHCJ webinar provided an introduction to this data, including ideas on how to use the data in your own area.

The federal survey that reflects patients' perspectives of hospital care has been updated on the AHCJ website. The spreadsheets that AHCJ offers allow you to analyze the top-rated hospitals — or lowest-rated hospitals — in your area. 

Need help analyzing data? AHCJ has tip sheets to help, including "Finding patterns and trends in health data: Pivot tables in spreadsheets" and "Intro to investigating health data using spreadsheets." Links to the data and the relevant tip sheets are all on the Data page.

AHCJ social networkingStay in touch with AHCJ through social networking sites and tools

Freelance writingFind freelance health journalists in our directory

Transition assistance program for health journalists‘Downsized’ members can take advantage of transition-assistance program

Nursing Home Compare dataAHCJ makes Nursing Home Compare data easier to analyze

SurgeonFind stories with ready-to-use Hospital Compare data

Reporting Guides

Slim guides• Covering Medical Research
• Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes
• Navigating the CDC: A Journalist’s Guide to the CDC Web Site
• Covering Obesity: A Guide for Reporters
• Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web


Association of Health Care Journalists Covering Health: An AHCJ blog

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The press release that fell and hit its head
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Exploring risk factors, rates of suicide in seniors
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Interventions might alleviate poverty’s impact on child health
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Dental tourism: Americans leaving the country for oral health care
Experts say many thousands of Americans are now going abroad for dental care. The growing phenomenon of dental tourism is believed to make up a ...


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Reporting Guides


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