Connections between housing, health: Finding stories and getting the reporting right

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health. To help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network, Rojas-Burke will hunt for resources, highlight excellent work and moderate discussions with journalists and experts. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or tweet to @rojasburke.

Photo by Till Westermayer via Flickr

Photo by Till Westermayer via Flickr

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.

Sandel has contributed a tip sheet that includes key stories to pursue and critical insights on the housing-as-health-care trend.

Find out why housing has an enormous impact on educational attainment and economic stability, how unequal enforcement of health and safety codes creates disparities and what the three essential elements of healthy housing are. See the tip sheet now.

 

Baseball’s Schilling blames tobacco for cancer; what do reporters need to know about links?

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: Jeff Archer via Flickr

Photo: Jeff Archer via Flickr

The ties between smokeless tobacco and baseball run deep. The immortal Babe Ruth claimed Pinch Hit was his chew of choice (as this short film from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminds us). Now, World Series-winning pitcher Curt Schilling, who revealed in June that his cancer was in remission but didn’t say what kind of cancer it was, has announced that it is oral cancer. He blames the cancer on his 30 years of chewing tobacco.

The June death of Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn served as a reminder of the dangers posed by the habit. Gwynn said he believed the salivary gland cancer that killed him was caused by his longtime use of chewing tobacco.

National, state and local health organizations used the story of Gwynn’s passing to talk about the dangers of smokeless tobacco and likely will use Schilling’s news to raise awareness. Is there an angle in this that you could explore in your own state or community?

Mary Otto, AHCJ’s core topic leader on oral health, has written a tip sheet that includes links to studies on the connections between smokeless tobacco and cancer, where Major League Baseball and the players stand on eliminating chewing tobacco from the sport and more information you can use when reporting on the almost inevitable awareness campaigns. Read it now…

More on understanding – and unearthing – health care costs

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 post we did on Clear Health Costs got a lot of positive reaction so we asked the team involved in a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation-funded project involving two California public radio stations and the cost-tracking group to tell you more about it in their own words.

In the tip sheet, Lisa Aliferis of KQED, Rebecca Plevin from SCPR and Jeanne Pinder of clearhealthcosts.comgive you a glimpse under thehood of health care costs. “Health care costs both lack transparency and are wildly variable, not just from region to region but sometimes from block to block within the same city,” they begin.

They explain a few basics: what you pay, what insurers pay, what providers are paid, and what almost no one (except some of the uninsured) pays – the Chargemaster price.  Even if you can’t build a data collection project, you can write about the variability in your community. “Put a human face on these dollar figures. Talk to people who have felt burned by the cost of a medical procedure, or confused by a huge bill. “ You might be able to find a handful of people who have had the same procedure in the same place – or the same procedure at two facilities just blocks apart in a city, or in adjacent counties in a more rural setting – and find how their experiences differed.

The “How I Did It” article by Lisa Pickoff-White, senior news interactive producer, KQED; Joel Withrow, product manager, KPCC/SCPR; and Pinder is more nitty-gritty. Your organization may not be able to do something on this scale, but it’s still worth a read to see how they approached it, what worked, and what tools they used (not just on the technical side – see the bottom of the post for other project management and collaboration tools). Facing an eight-week deadline they had to coordinate a far-flung team of journalists, data crunchers and developers scattered in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Bialystok, Kiev and Tahiti. (yes, Ukraine and Tahiti.)

New jobs, awards and more for AHCJ members

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.

The latest AHCJ members in the news are Gerri Constant, Mari Edlin, John Gever, Rachel Gurevich, Janice Lynch Schuster, Eric T. Rosenthal and Saerom Yoo. See the latest about them:


Julie Rybarczyk via Flickr

Julie Rybarczyk via Flickr

Gerri Constant (@GerriShaftel) is the medical/special projects producer for CBS-2/KCAL-Los Angeles. She won a 2014 Los Angeles Area Emmy Award (Outstanding Medical Story-Multi-Part) for “Heroes of Children’s Hospital,” a compilation of profiles of exceptional patients. She also has started a two-year term on the Board of Governors for The Television Academy.

Mari Edlin, a freelance journalist/writer since 1988, is the editor of two new publications— Healthcare Innovation News and Population Health News — in addition to her contributions to national health care magazines and California Healthline.

John Gever (@JohnGeverMPT) has beenpromoted to managing editor at MedPage Today.

Rachel Gurevich (@RachelGurevich) received a 2014 RESOLVE Hope Award for Achievement, recognizing her writing about infertility for About.com.

Janice Lynch Schuster (@jlschuster827) is freelancing full time and working on a book with a pediatric oncologist and pain expert.

Eric T. Rosenthal has joined MedPage Today as special correspondent covering issues and controversies in oncology. He had been special correspondent for Oncology Times.

Saerom Yoo (@syoo) was awarded second place for enterprise reporting from the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association for her three-part series, “Crimes of Homelessness.”

Award-winning journalist honored with scholarship in her name

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.

A new scholarship for students who show promise in medical journalism will honor longtime health journalist Marianne D. Mattera, who died in July.

Most recently, Mattera was managing editor of MedPage Today. The scholarship, for students in New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program, will include mentorship from MedPage Today and Everyday Health employees.

“Marianne was a dedicated professional and a mentor to many young journalists entering the field of medical journalism,” said Peggy Peck, vice president and editor in chief of MedPage Today, in a release about the scholarship. “I believe Marianne would be honored by having a scholarship in her name and that through this scholarship our media channels are carrying on a tradition of mentorship that she valued so very much.”

During Mattera’s 30-year career, she won a record 18 Jesse H. Neal Awards from the Association of Business Information and Media Companies. Prior to MedPage Today, Mattera was editor in chief of Medical Economics magazine and editor of RN, a clinical journal for nurses, and edited two books for nurses.

Everyday Health is a digital health and wellness company that owns MedPage Today, which provides peer-reviewed news coverage for health care professionals.

Welcome AHCJ’s newest 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.

  • Amanda Aronczyk, reporter, WNYC-New York (@aronczyk)
  • Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, independent journalist, Brooklyn, N.Y. (@agataboxe)
  • Amy Hockert, editor in chief, BringMeTheNews, Minneapolis
  • Fejiro Oliver, independent journalist, Uyo, Nigeria (@fejirooliver86)
  • Darius Tahir, reporter, Modern Healthcare, Washington, D.C. (@dariustahir)
  • Emily Weigel, graduate student, Yale School of Nursing, North Bethesda, Md.

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.

New key concept: The inequality of violent injury and death

Joe Rojas-Burke

About Joe Rojas-Burke

Joe Rojas-Burke is AHCJ’s core topic leader on the social determinants of health. To help journalists broaden the frame of health coverage to include factors such as education, income, neighborhood and social network, Rojas-Burke will hunt for resources, highlight excellent work and moderate discussions with journalists and experts. Send questions or suggestions to joe@healthjournalism.org or tweet to @rojasburke.

The statistics are hard to believe.

  • The most dangerous counties in the United States have rates of violent death that are more than 10 times higher than the safest counties.
  • In Los Angeles County, homicide subtracts nearly five years from the expected life span of African American men in some neighborhoods.
  • Across the U.S., death by homicide is more than eight times more common among blacks, and three times more common among Native Americans, compared with white Americans.

What could account for such staggering inequalities? A new key concept in AHCJ’s core topic area on the social determinants of health sizes up the problem, what’s known about root causes, and how people are trying to reduce the unequal burden of violent injury and death.

Note how the risk of violent injury rose with each step of decreasing neighborhood socioeconomic status in this 10-year study of hospitalizations in Memphis, Tenn, and surrounding Shelby County.

How to understand 2015 exchange plan insurance rate changes

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.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

It’s rate increase season, and as we head into the second ACA enrollment season, it’s hard to understand why some rates are going up, some down – sometimes in the same place.

Also, some of the rates we’re hearing about are proposals. Depending on how much regulatory oomph state insurance officials have, the rates may change.

This post give you some ideas on what to watch for and how to think about rate increases in individual states, and what questions to ask the health plans and the regulators in your state. Remember that even in states using the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, state insurance officials still have a role.

The Alliance for Health Reform (an invaluable resource on this issue) recently held a briefing on rate changes. The full briefing (webcast, transcript, background materials, source list) can be found online here.  A recent Health Affairs blog post by Christopher Koller and Sabrina Corlette provides another important resource.

Here are some key points outlined in these two resources: Continue reading

Are medical, dental boards public or private? Case over teeth-whitening services may decide

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.

Image by waldopepper via Flickr

Image by waldopepper via Flickr

A long-simmering feud between North Carolina’s state dental board and a group of non-dentists who provide teeth-whitening services in malls and day spas is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments in the case, North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, are scheduled for Oct. 14, the ADA (American Dental Association) News reports.

The decision could have wider implications for teeth-whitening shops – and for the dental and medical boards that regulate the health professions nationwide. Dental whitening has grown into a big business in recent years and, in a number of states, dental boards have taken steps to make the services illegal for anyone but dentists or hygienists to perform. Campbell Robertson provided a thorough look at the topic in a story last year for The New York Times.

In North Carolina, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken the side of the retail teeth-whitening shops. In 2011, the commission held that North Carolina’s state dental board “illegally thwarted competition by working to bar non-dentist providers of teeth whitening goods and services from selling their products to consumers.”

Last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the FTC’s ruling.

But the North Carolina dental board argues that its actions are not subject to such challenges because federal antitrust laws do not apply to actions taken by a state or its agencies. Continue reading

AHCJ pushes for more data on residency programs

Charles Ornstein

About Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter with ProPublica in New York. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists' board of directors and past president.

The Association of Health Care Journalists has called upon the accreditor of physician residency programs to be more transparent with its data so the public can be better informed about the quality of graduate medical education programs in their communities.

In a letter sent last week to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, AHCJ praised the group for having a website that includes accreditation decisions for institutions and their individual training programs.

Karl Stark

Karl Stark

But it called on ACGME to do publish additional information, echoing a similar call by an Institute of Medicine panel for greater transparency in graduate medical education.

“We believe ACGME can play an even greater leadership role by providing additional information or advocating for its release,” said the letter, signed by AHCJ president Karl Stark. “Doing so would be in keeping with the new Institute of Medicine report, which called for ‘transparency and accountability of GME programs.’” Continue reading