NIH cautions older adults, caregivers to be vigilant about hypothermia

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, Home Care Technology report and on HealthStyles Radio (WBAI-FM, NYC). She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College, NYC, and a co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

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 medical conditions such as diabetes. Certain medications, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can also affect the body’s response to temperature.

According to the National Institute on Aging, hypothermia is generally defined as having a core body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. It can occur when the outside environment gets too cold or the body’s heat production decreases. Hypothermia can develop in older adults even after relatively short exposure to cold weather or a small drop in temperature. Recent CDC data shows that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 2,000 weather related deaths for all ages between 2006-10 were due to exposure to excessive cold, hypothermia, or both. Between 1999 and 2002, 49 percent of those who died from hypothermia were aged 65 or older, 67 percent were male. Continue reading

Vapor from e-cigarettes triggers changes to cells in lab study

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.

Photo: Jonny Williams via Flickr

Photo: Jonny Williams via Flickr

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 vaporizing a liquid solution that users inhale. They are sold in various flavors, including mint and chocolate, and typically contain nicotine as well as a propellant to create the vapor. Continue reading

Adequacy, transparency of provider networks among things to watch

Heather Johnson

About Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is an Oakland, Calif.-based journalist, author and editor specializing in legal writing, general interest, health and fitness, entertainment and consumer and professional audio.

Narrow networks

Photo: Niklas Morberg via Flickr

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 of Covered California; journalist and “Ask Emily” columnist Emily Bazar of California HealthCare Foundation’s Center for Health Reporting; Larry Levitt of Kaiser Family Foundation; and Betsy Imholz of Consumers Union addressed narrow networks’ impact on consumers, insurers, and providers, as well as proposed government regulation. Marilyn Serafini of nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform, the panel’s cohost, moderated the briefing.

Narrow networks predate the Affordable Care Act to the controlled HMOs of the 1980s and 1990s, Levitt explained. The ACA accelerated the trend as insurers sought new ways to cut costs under a law that capped deductibles, banned pre-existing condition denials and mandated certain preventative care benefits. Continue reading

A sampling of perspectives on Brill’s take on health reform

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.

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 right. I also wanted to draw your attention to another recent book providing a conservative perspective on health reform. Continue reading

Reporter finds nonprofit hospital’s suit against uninsured patient was just one of many

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Dianna Wray

Dianna Wray

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 a broken arm.

“By the time the helicopter landed, he was already $12,196.37 in debt,” wrote Dianna Wray, a staff writer for the Houston Press. Her article about Alaniz, “Getting Stuck: Uninsured Patients Slammed with Lawsuits by Not-for-Profit Hospital,” was recognized as one of the best examples of health journalism in the business (small) category in AHCJ’s Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. In a new “How I did it” article, Wray explains how her reporting led her to many more cases of patients being sued for medical debt and some of the reaction the story generated. Continue reading

Questioning the wisdom behind removing third molars

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.

Photo" Parveen chopra via Fickr

Photo: Parveen chopra via Fickr

Americans spend about $3 billion annually getting wisdom teeth removed. But some experts are now questioning whether the procedure is always necessary, Elise Oberliesen recently reported in a story for the Los Angeles Times.

“Those who oppose automatically taking out those four teeth say ‘watchful waiting’ is a better path because the teeth and surrounding gum tissue might remain normal, making costly surgery unnecessary,” Oberliesen writes.

The four back teeth, also known as the third molars, generally erupt in young adulthood. But they sometimes only partially break through the gum. The teeth can become impacted because there’s not enough room in the jaw. Impaction can lead to decay, inflammation, the formation of cysts and other problems. Continue reading

Experts share realities behind generic, specialty drug pricing

Loren Bonner

About Loren Bonner

Loren Bonner (@lorenbonner) is a reporter for Pharmacy Today. She has freelanced as a health care writer and multimedia producer, and worked in public radio in New York and Connecticut. Bonner obtained her master’s degree in journalism with a health and medicine concentration from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism.

Photo: Abby via Flickr

Photo: Abby via Flickr

Health journalists received a few lessons in economics during a discussion last week on some alarming drug trends – largely the result of a broken market – that are threatening patient care and undermining the U.S. health care system.

At a New York City chapter eventPhil Zweig, a longtime financial journalist who also runs a group called Physicians Against Drug Shortages, spoke about the scarcity of generic drugs in hospitals and clinics – a problem that has persisted for years. Hospital group purchasing organizations (GPOs), which are not regulated and essentially negotiate supply purchases for hospitals, have the ability to charge market share to the highest bidder. Zweig said they can do this because the safe harbor provision in the 1987 Medicare anti-kickback law excluded GPOs from criminal prosecution for taking kickbacks from suppliers.

“The more you can pay to a GPO, the more market share you get,” Zweig said.

Because of the exclusive contracts that GPOs award, the number of competitors in the market shrinks, which has led to a shortage of generic prescription drugs – everything from sterile injectables to chemotherapy agents. Continue reading

Journalists’ coverage of prenatal screening uncovers big gaps in what we know about genetic testing

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by mahalie stackpole via Flickr

Photo by mahalie stackpole via Flickr

Last month, journalists from the New England Center for Investigative Reporting raised serious questions about prenatal genetic screening tests, saying physicians and patients may not fully understand the results of these tests for fetal abnormalities.

In their reporting, the journalists exposed a symptom of what may be a bigger problem: the proliferation of genetic tests without a full understanding about what such testing can and cannot do. Even health insurers have struggled to understand how to pay for new genetic tests.

The stories also pointed out that federal regulators are wrestling with how to classify genetic tests. Many of these tests fall into the category of what pathologists call lab-developed tests or LDTs. These tests are not regulated by the FDA, as the NECIR journalists reported. In October, the FDA proposed regulating these tests as medical devices and clinical laboratories are pushing back, saying such regulations could interfere with the practice of medicine.

We’ll address these issues one at time. Continue reading

Welcome these new AHCJ members

Len Bruzzese

About Len Bruzzese

Len Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves on the executive committee of the Council of National Journalism Organizations.

Please welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ. All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves.

  • Erika Check Hayden, senior reporter, Nature, San Francisco
  • Cathyrn Domrose, staff writer, Nurse.com, San Francisco
  • Sarah Jacoby, associate editor, health and sciences, Refinery29, Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • Sarah Peyton, student, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
  • Tina Rosenberg, co-writer, Fixes column, The New York Times, New York (@tirosenberg)
  • Julie Steenhuysen, correspondent, Reuters, Chicago

If you haven’t joined yet, see what member benefits you’re missing out on: Access to more than 50 journals and databases, tip sheets and articles from your colleagues on how they’ve reported stories, conferences, workshops, online training, reporting guides and more. Join AHCJ today to get a wealth of support and tools to help you.

Shared wisdom: Shooting video of older adults

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.

Sue Scheible

Sue Scheible

Sometimes all we need is a quick suggestion from our peers to zero in on a good story. In the “Shared Wisdom” section of our core topic areas, we turn to front-line journalists for advice, some simple insight to add to our repository.

Today’s addition is from Sue Scheible of the Patriot Ledger in Massachusetts. Scheible (@sues_ledger) has been a staff reporter at the paper for 46 years and has a weekly column on aging. She offers some tips on filming video of older adults and why video can be so powerful. In one recent video that Scheible shot, an 85-year-old woman explained what she’s learned about talking to doctors.

See what wisdom Scheible offers fellow journalists.