Covering the wild west of microbiome research #ahcj15

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on oral health resources at mary@healthjournalism.org.

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 mood: “Ask Me About Fecal Transplants.”

A wide array of products and innovations are already promising to help us improve our inner flora. Yet reporters and consumers need to be wary.

“Microbiome hype” is rampant, warned Eisen, Ph.D., a professor from the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine and College of Biological Sciences. Continue reading

Why is it so hard to discuss end-of life-care? #ahcj15

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com, Practical Diabetology and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

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 dignity – are still relevant and have intensified.

“Lately, there has been lots of attention around the “right-to-die” movement. Just as important as that is exploring the right to quality of life until the end,” Kleyman, director of the Ethnic Elders Newsbeat at New America Media, said at the April 24 session.

V.J. Periyakoil

V.J. Periyakoil

V.J. Periyakoil, M.D., who is director of palliative care education and training at Stanford University School of Medicine, specializes in multicultural palliative care and in helping families and physicians understand the related cultural components. “Providing good end-of-life medical care is not enough,” she said. “Providers must become more skilled at having effective end-of-life conversations.” Continue reading

Verghese offers commentary on healing, even when he can’t cure #ahcj15

Joanne Silberner

About Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner (@jsilberner) is a freelance reporter and artist-in-residence at the University of Washington in Seattle. For 18 years, she covered health issues for NPR. She is attending Health Journalism 2015 as an AHCJ-Academic Health Journalism Fellow.

Photo: Kris Hickman/AHCJAbraham Verghese

Photo: Kris Hickman/AHCJAbraham Verghese talked about the healing power of personal attention and bedside medicine.

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 novels.

So I came to his speech on Thursday night at the Health Journalism 2015 kickoff session not knowing what to expect. Continue reading

Reporters offer state, local story ideas for covering ACA #ahcj15

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

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:

Julie Appleby & Sarah Kliff

Julie Appleby & Sarah Kliff

  • The King v. Burwell Supreme Court case over federal subsidies
  • What’s next in Congress?
  • Exchanges
  • Medicaid
  • And – the topic that got by far the most attention from the crowd – narrow networks.

Here are some of their highlights and story suggestions, with an emphasis on stories that state and local reporters can tackle. (Here are Kliff’s slides.) Continue reading

VA secretary addresses some of department’s challenges #ahcj15

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: Pia ChristensenRobert McDonald

Photo: Pia ChristensenRobert McDonald

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 “Kremlin-esque” mentality, and told the roomful of journalists that he was trying to change it. The VA is publishing patient access data (waiting times for appointments) on the website every two weeks, and he said he’s trying to promote a culture of openness. Continue reading

Maintaining Medicaid ‘bump’ a state-by-state endeavor

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org.

Medicaid pay rates for doctors in many states traditionally have been extremely low – so low that most physicians didn’t want to participate in the program, or take on more Medicaid patients than they already had.

Joe Moser

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid had paid only 59 percent of what Medicare did for primary care before that.

The Affordable Care Act raised the rates for primary care providers to be equal to Medicare pay. Medicaid had paid only 59 percent of what Medicare did for primary care before that, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The snag: the Medicaid “bump” lasted for only two years, until the end of 2014. And Congress has not renewed it, although there has been a bit of preliminary talk about it. Continue reading

New data reveal trend in binge drinking #ahcj15

Jocelyn Wiener

About Jocelyn Wiener

Jocelyn Wiener is an independent journalist in Oakland, Calif. She is attending Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-California Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by The California HealthCare Foundation.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAli Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discusses new data on alcohol use in the United States.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAli Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discusses new data on alcohol use in the United States.

Binge drinking and heavy drinking in the United States increased significantly in recent years, particularly among women, according to a new study presented today by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

While the overall rate of drinking remained constant between 2005 and 2012, heavy drinking increased 17.2 percent and binge drinking increased 8.9 percent during that time.

Heavy drinking was defined as averaging more than one drink per day during the past month (for women) or two drinks (for men). Binge drinking was defined as having four or more drinks at one occasion in the past month (for women) and five or more (for men). Continue reading

AHCJ invites members to run for board of directors

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: FutUndBeidl via Flickr

Photo: FutUndBeidl via Flickr

Each year, members in AHCJ’s professional category elect members for the association’s board of directors. Six of the 12 director positions come up for election each year for two-year terms.

AHCJ is built on the wisdom, experience and energy of its members. It is what makes AHCJ a professional home for so many journalists. Continue reading

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

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates social media efforts of AHCJ and assists with the editing and production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – 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 (RWJF) to continue offering training and resources for journalists covering health issues.

RWJF announced the grant this week to coincide with Health Journalism 2015, the annual conference of AHCJ, being held April 24-27 in Silicon Valley. 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. Continue reading

In heart of Silicon Valley, a chance to spot health gaps #ahcj15

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington-based journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on social determinants of health and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Silicon Valley is the place of tech dreams and data wonders. But the city – one of the nation’s wealthiest areas – is also home to underlying health gaps. So perhaps it’s a fitting place to also examine the haves-and-have-nots of health care at AHCJ’s annual conference this week.

Sheree Crute

Sheree Crute

On Saturday, presenters will discuss how an area can suffer from health disparities when it comes to what care patients receive and how. In the session, “One Community, Two Worlds: Reporting on Health Inequality,” Luisa Buada, a registered nurse and chief executive of Ravenswood Family Health Center in East Palo Alto, California, and Sarah Reyes, regional program manager for The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative, will join San Jose Mercury News reporter Tracy Seipel to guide journalists in understanding such gaps. Continue reading