Author Archives: Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

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

November member news: Awards, job changes, new books and more

The latest report on AHCJ members’ awards, fellowships, job changes and other news includes Diane Atwood, Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, Sharon Dunten, Audrey Dutton, Karl Eisenhower, Peter Eisler, P. Mona Khanna, Nick Mulcahy, Marianne O’Hare, Cheryl Platzman Weinstock, Gary Schwitzer,  Liz Seegert and Jenny Wagner. Continue reading

International panel formed as resource for journalists

green-globeSix AHCJ members are part of a new international effort to share information about how other countries’ health systems work.

The Panel of International Journalists was the brainchild of former AHCJ president Trudy Lieberman and created with the help of Noralou P. Roos, Ph.D., and the Evidence Network of Canadian Health Policy (commonly known as, as Lieberman explains in this CJR piece.

The New York-based journalist wanted to “encourage more cross-country conversation and tap into the expertise of colleagues in other countries who report on the same health and medical issues we do.” Continue reading

Webcast: Using NARMS Now, a CDC data tool on antibiotic resistance

webcast-lorezThis year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS Now), a database and visualization tool that makes it quicker and easier to see how antibiotic resistance for four bacteria transmitted commonly through food – Campylobacter, E. coli O157, Salmonella, and Shigella – has changed during the past 18 years.

The tool allows users to access antibiotic resistance data by bacteria, antibiotic, year (1996-2013), and geographic region. It displays data on an interactive map or in tables. NARMS Now is designed to provide access to the most up-to-date antibiotic resistance results by uploading data regularly. Continue reading

Reporter finds mental health evaluations missed in ER that released murder suspect

magnifying-glassReporter Amy Neff Roth (@OD_Roth), of the Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch found an interesting story with the help of

Roth, who attended Health Journalism 2015 as an AHCJ-New York Health Journalism Fellow, investigated the circumstances around a triple homicide and found that not all emergency room patients in need of mental health evaluations were getting them.

Police brought [Paul] Bumbolo into the ER for an evaluation on Jan. 6 after he reportedly attacked his uncle and beat the family dog. Police said he killed his adoptive mother, uncle and sister several hours after being released.

Continue reading

Call for entries: Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism

Awards for Excellence in Health Care JournalismEnter your best work of the year to be recognized by the premier contest for health journalism. Since 2004, the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism have recognized the best health reporting in print, broadcast and online media.

First-place winners earn $500 and a framed certificate. They also receive complimentary lodging for two nights and registration for the annual conference, April 7-10, 2016, in Cleveland. Winners are recognized at the annual awards luncheon and first-place winners are encouraged to appear on panels to discuss their winning work.

Entries can include a wide range of health coverage including public health, consumer health, medical research, the business of health care and health ethics. Click here to read the rules, the FAQ and to enter.

Reporting on hype, hope around treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Alan Cassels

Alan Cassels

There seems to be no end of news reports about promising therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

With the aging of the population having become one of the more serious and complicated aspects of modern American health care, these typically age-associated conditions are driving a lot of research into new drug and other treatment approaches.

Despite high excitement and hope surrounding the latest treatments, journalists need to report responsibly on these drugs to avoid delivering false hope and ensure their stories are leavened with balanced, quality information. There is always a risk that reporters may too easily accept what drug manufacturers, geriatricians and others tell them about new therapies and not demand to see the research backing up their claims.

Alan Cassels (@AKECassels), a writer and drug policy researcher affiliated with the School of Health Information Sciences at the University of Victoria, has some tips for reporters covering treatments for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

ProPublica offers rebuttal to Rand critique of Surgeon Scorecard

star-ratingNot unexpectedly, ProPublica has published a response to the Rand Corporation’s recent 20-page critique of the journalism organization’s Surgeon Scorecard, a searchable database of complication rates for surgeons performing several elective operations.

In a Rand summary of the piece, its authors advised patients “not to consider the Scorecard a valid or reliable predictor of the health outcomes any individual surgeon is likely to provide.” The paper listed what researchers labeled “Methodological Issues” in the Scorecard and ways the authors thought the data could be improved.

ProPublica’s rebuttal, written by editor-in-chief Stephen Engelberg  and deputy data editor Olga Pierce, offers specific responses to Rand’s points and says the organization plans to take some suggestions into account as it prepares the next version of the scorecard. However, it says conversation about the database should be “grounded in fact and evidence.” Continue reading

How one reporter re-purposed her broadcast, online work for a new audience

Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner

Joanne Silberner did a heavily reported series of radio stories and web posts on cancer in developing countries in 2013. In 2014, Robert Lott, deputy editor of the health policy journal Health Affairs, asked if she would be willing to do a version for his journal. It would be easy, he said – just update the reporting.

It wasn’t exactly easy, but re-working the stories was fun, and remunerative. In a piece for AHCJ, she tells us about the experience and offers some tips for other reporters. Read more …

Workshop will help reporters translate medical research to audiences accurately

EBMEven if you only cover health care occasionally, you run across myriad medical studies and health claims. The results and claims often seem conflicting and confusing. But understanding evidence-based medicine will help journalists explore for their audiences the science and the policy decisions that impact lives.

The program is set and the speakers are confirmed for next month’s Journalism Workshop on Evidence-Based Medicine.

Sessions will include:

  • The connections and disconnections of science and policy
  • Getting up to speed on clinical studies
  • Research tools for evidence-based stories
  • How to report on scientific fraud
  • Understanding and reporting on screening evidence
  • Digging into statistics
  • How to use anecdotes and narratives while sticking to evidence

Continue reading

First class of AHCJ Comparative Effectiveness Research Fellows named

Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness ResearchTwelve journalists have been chosen for the inaugural class of the AHCJ Fellowship on Comparative Effectiveness Research. The fellowship program was created with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to help reporters and editors produce more accurate in-depth stories on medical research and how medical decisions are made.

The fellows will gather in Washington, D.C., the week of Oct. 11 for a series of presentations, round tables, hands-on database sessions and interactions with researchers.

Read more to find who the fellows are and some examples of the sessions they will participate in.