World Heart Day targets salt consumption, risk reduction

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.

heartToday is World Heart Day – when the World Heart Federation and the World Health Organization highlight global efforts to raise awareness about the epidemic of cardiovascular diseases. The goal is to reduce cardiovascular-related mortality by a third over the next 15 years.

According to the WHO, more than 17 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2008, representing 30 percent of all deaths worldwide. Of these deaths, an estimated 7.3 million were due to coronary heart disease and 6.2 million were due to stroke. More than 80 percent of these deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. The WHO believes the number of cardiovascular disease deaths, mainly from heart disease and stroke, will increase to more than 23 million by 2030.

The CDC estimates that about 600,000 people die from CVD annually in the United States. It is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. About half (42.2 million) of the estimated 83.6 million people in the U.S. with some type of heart disease are age 60 or older, and two-thirds (66 percent) of CVD-related deaths occur in people age 75 or older. Continue reading

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.

  • Marilyn Chase, lecturer; University of California, Berkeley, Graduate School of Journalism; San Francisco, (@chasemarilyn)
  • Charles Elmore, reporter, The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla. (@Elmorepbp)
  • Benjamin Grove, editor, BringMeTheNews, Minneapolis
  • Audrey McGlinchy, graduate student, City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, Brooklyn, N.Y. (@AKMcGlinchy)
  • Crystal Phend, senior news reporter, MedPage Today, Soledad, Calif. (@cphend)
  • Anjula Razdan, senior producer, BringMeTheNews, Minneapolis, (@anjularazdan)
  • Carolyn Worthington, writer/editor, Healthy Aging Magazine, Unionville, Pa.

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.

Covering climate change and health: A primer for journalists

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps and completed an internship with Reuters AlertNet in London. She aspires to be a physician, epidemiologist and science writer.

Climate change has been making the headlines.

More than 300,000 people kicked off Climate Week NYC 2014 with a march through the streets of New York, in what has been called the largest demonstration on climate change ever. The march coincided with U.N. meetings on climate change and the introduction of the Climate Change Health Promotion and Protection Act by Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.).

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr

During Climate Week, Jonathan Patz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, presented an extensive literature review on the health consequences of climate change at the Civil Society Event on Action in Climate Change and Health. The paper was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Sept. 22.

The study focused on the ways in which climate change affects health and is especially important for health writers.  If you want to cover the intersection of climate change and health in your area, but don’t know where to start, you might find these areas of Patz’s research especially helpful: Continue reading

Latest awards, fellowships and job changes 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.

Photo: Brad.K via Flickr

Photo: Brad.K via Flickr

The latest AHCJ members making news include Loren BonnerPamela BrewerKaty ButlerJoe Carlson, Phil Cauthon, Catherine Dold, Robert A. Duke, Nancy B. Finn, Stephanie M. Lee, Laura PutreLiz Seegert and Eric Whitney. See more about them here:

Loren Bonner is now a reporter for the publications of the American Pharmacists Association, including Pharmacy Today and pharmacist.com. Her last position was with DOTmed News as online editor.

Pamela Brewer (@MyNDTALK) has launched a website about her daily podcast on health and relationships.

Katy Butler‘s award-winning 2013 examination of American end-of-life health care, “Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death,” was named a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for nonfiction.

Joe Carlson (@_JoeCarlson) is covering medical technology, including Medtronic and medtech devicemakers, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Carlson was previously with Modern Healthcare.

Phil Cauthon is director of communications for the Sunflower Foundation.

The second edition of “The Recovery Book,” by Al J. Mooney, III, M.D., Howard Eisenberg and Catherine Dold, has been released. It is about what to expect when in recovery from addiction to drugs or alcohol.

Robert A. Duke was appointed health care columnist for Whatcom Watch, a monthly online and print newspaper in Bellingham, Wash. Duke’s column is titled “Whatcom: Chronic & Acute” and it covers health care reform and practice in Whatcom County, 90 miles north of Seattle.

The updated 2014 edition of Nancy B. Finn’s book, “e-Patients Live Longer, The Complete Guide to Managing Health Care Using Technology,” includes a simple update on the meaningful use statute and a comprehensive chapter that helps patients understand the Affordable Care Act.

Stephanie M. Lee was named a finalist in journalism in the 2014 PEN Center USA Literary Awards for a long-form piece about surrogacy in India.

Kimberly Leonard (@leonardkl), previously a producer for health rankings at U.S. News & World Report, has been promoted to the news desk as health care reporter.

McGraw-Hill Education has published the 11th edition of “Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications,” by Ricki Lewis, Ph.D.

Laura Putre won a gold award for feature writing from the Association of Healthcare Publication Editors and a Bronze Award from the Association of Business Publication Editors for her 2013 series “Generations in the Healthcare Workplace” in H&HN Magazine.

Liz Seegert, a freelance journalist and AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, has been selected as a Journalist in Aging Fellow by the Gerontological Society of America and New America Media. She will attend the annual GSA Meeting in November and will work on a multi-part radio series on ethnic and cultural responses to aging and caregiving.

Eric Whitney is news director at Montana Public Radio, based in Missoula. He was a Colorado-based independent journalist doing work for NPR, Kaiser Health News and other outlets.

Are you an AHCJ member with news about your career, such as a new job, fellowship or award? Send details and links to brandi@healthjournalism.org for inclusion in the next member news post.

D.C.-area journalists get tips on upcoming ACA stories

Margot Sanger-Katz

About Margot Sanger-Katz

Margot Sanger-Katz (@sangerkatz) covers health care for The Upshot at The New York Times. She was a health care correspondent for the National Journal and, as the recipient of an AHCJ Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance, she produced a series examining hospital consolidation and its influence on health care costs and the future of health reform.

Photo: Margot Sanger-KatzJournalists at Sept. 18 Washington, D.C., chapter meeting heard from Tom Scully, a former CMS administrator; Stephen Zuckerman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute; and Marilyn Serafini, a former journalist now with the Alliance for Health Reform.

Photo: Margot Sanger-KatzJournalists at a Sept. 18 Washington, D.C., chapter meeting heard from Tom Scully, a former CMS administrator; Stephen Zuckerman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute; and Marilyn Werber Serafini, a former journalist now with the Alliance for Health Reform.

Open enrollment is coming again. And with millions of new people signing up for health insurance and renewing their plans come opportunities for new stories about how the Affordable Care Act is working.

Stephen Zuckerman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and Tom Scully, a former administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services who now works as a private equity investor, spoke to an AHCJ chapter meeting in Washington, D.C. about the possible stories ahead.

Continue reading

When patients get lab test results, journalists may need these resources

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.

Next month, all clinical laboratories must make patients’ laboratory test results available to patients who request them.

Under rules three federal agencies issued in February, labs must either mail the results to patients or put them up in a secure site online within 30 days of receiving a request from a patient or a patient’s representative.

When the rules were published Feb. 3, Joseph Conn explained in Modern Healthcare that the new regulations pre-empt laws in 13 states and lift a federal exemption in 26 other states. “Previously, in those 39 states, patients could receive or view their lab test results only through their physician or other authorized health care provider,” Conn wrote.

Labs in some health systems already make results available. Kaiser Permanente, for example, has allowed patients to see their test results since 2008. Since the new rules became effective on April 7, some labs have begun complying although compliance is not mandatory until Oct. 6. Continue reading

Addressing the controversy over ‘chronic Lyme disease’

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps and completed an internship with Reuters AlertNet in London. She aspires to be a physician, epidemiologist and science writer.

Image by Penn State via Flickr

Image by Penn State via Flickr

Covering Lyme disease can be a complicated endeavor. It’s hard to diagnose, and it’s even more difficult to decide what to call the ongoing symptoms. Janice Lynch Schuster reported on the controversy in The Washington Post, discussing both Lyme disease and its aftereffects.

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by deer ticks (also known as blacklegged ticks), can cause fever, chills, and severe joint pain. However, detecting a tiny tick is a challenge, and the famous red bull’s-eye rash associated with Lyme-carrying tick bites doesn’t always occur. Many people suffer symptoms for months without a diagnosis, and those suffering the effects of Lyme disease are frequently brushed off by health care professionals, who dismiss symptoms as psychosomatic or stress-related.

As if that weren’t enough, the 300,000 people thought to be infected with Lyme disease each year may suffer chronic symptoms such as body pain or “brain fog” even after diagnosis and antibiotic treatment.  Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that 10 percent to 20 percent of people who are diagnosed with the disease and complete a two- to four-week course of antibiotics will “have lingering symptoms of fatigue, pain, or joint and muscle aches,” known as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.”

However, other experts are quick to dismiss the idea of post-Lyme syndrome. It’s important for journalists writing about Lyme disease to understand the disagreement in the medical community over these lingering effects.

Continue reading

How a secretive panel uses data that distorts doctors’ pay

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.

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Image by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

One factor that makes health care costs difficult to manage is the system the federal government and health insurers use to decide how to pay physicians for the various services they deliver.

In an article in The Washington Post, “How a secretive panel uses data that distorts doctors pay,” journalists Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating explain that a committee of the American Medical Association meets in private every year to develop values for most of the services doctors perform. The AMA is the chief lobbying group for doctors.

Read more about this secretive panel and the problems that Keating and Whoriskey identified wtih the process.

About 115,000 could lose insurance coverage based on residency issues

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 via USCIS.gov

Image via USCIS.gov

We wrote earlier this month about the Sept. 5 deadline for people who had signed up for ACA coverage through the federal exchange but still had some inconsistencies in the record about their citizenship or legal residency. Here’s an update:

As of early September, the Department of Health and Human Services said 310,000 people still had status questions (down from close to a million “data-matching” cases in late May). Most did get the information in and the questions resolved. But about a third did not, and that means about 115,000 people will lose coverage at the end of this month. Continue reading

U.S. children lacking in dental care, other preventive treatments

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 by Penn State via Flickr

Photo by Penn State via Flickr

A newly published federal study  finds that millions of American young people have been missing out on key preventive health care services, including simple treatments that can protect against tooth decay.

Fifty-six percent of the nation’s children did not see a dentist in 2009. That same year, a full 86 percent did not receive a dental sealant or topical fluoride treatment, two measures shown to greatly reduce cavities, according to the study, published Sept. 12 in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Meanwhile, oral disease remains prevalent among young people. Approximately 23 percent of children aged 2 to 11 years have at least one primary tooth with untreated decay and 20 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one permanent tooth with untreated decay, the report notes. Continue reading