Category Archives: Children

Covering infant mortality’s grip in South Carolina

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-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 resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: sean dreilinger via Flickr

Photo: sean dreilinger via Flickr

Journalists Doug Pardue and Lauren Sausser of The Post and Courier in South Carolina almost saw their story, about tackling the perpetually high infant deaths in their southern state, slip away when officials released updated statistics that appeared to show the problem ebbing.

But a closer look at the data — and its geographical divide — showed that the overall numbers weren’t really what they seemed. What resulted when Pardue, part of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team this year, and Sausser, also an award-winning reporter, teamed up was a powerful investigative series on the tight hold of South Carolina’s infant mortality rate and a deeper look at where the state was getting it right, and where it wasn’t.

Here’s how they did it.

Potential billing abuse by Medicaid dental providers a fertile area for coverage

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.

Once the ACA covers children's dental care, will parents drop their dental insurance?

Photo by ianus via Flickr

An estimated 8 percent of Medicaid dental providers in California submitted questionable bills to the program during one recent year, a recent federal report concluded.

Half of the dentists whose bills raised concerns worked for dental clinic chains.

The findings are the latest in an unfolding examination of Medicaid dental billing practices led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Continue reading

Florida dentist accused of abuse, fraud in treatment of young patients

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.

CNN filed its “Nightmare Dental Procedures Done on Kids” report under “Stories that Shock,” along with tabloid-worthy accounts of a child being dragged by her school bus and a woman kidnapped after responding to a personal ad on Craiglist.

The piece opens with the surreptitiously recorded sounds of instruments whirring and a child wailing, then shifts to a scene on a public sidewalk in Jacksonville, Fla., where angry protesters have gathered outside the office of a 78-year old pediatric dentist, Howard S. Schneider. Continue reading

Babies or bust? What new data on millennial birth rates means for the future

Susan Heavey

About Susan Heavey

Susan Heavey, (@susanheavey) a Washington, D.C.-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 resources and tip sheets at susan@healthjournalism.org.

Photo: H is for Home via Flickr

Photo: H is for Home via Flickr

It’s no secret that raising children is an expensive proposition. But for millennials, who entered adulthood during the worst economic slump since the Great Depression, the 2007-09 recession appears to have done a double-whammy on their decision to enter parenthood.

A recent study by the Urban Institute found that women in their 20s had fewer babies amid the soft economy than those in previous decades. And while it is still too early to know whether they will “catch up” by having children later, the paper written by Nan Marie Astone, Steven Martin and H. Elizabeth Peters raises questions about the implications such a population dip both can have not only on U.S. families but also upward mobility and society. Continue reading

Report: States fail to provide cost-saving dental procedure to children

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

Dental sealants have been proven to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay.

Yet many states are lagging in efforts to get the quick and cost-effective treatments to poor kids who are often at the highest risk for cavities, according to a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Sealants, which are thin plastic coatings, professionally applied to the chewing surfaces of the first and second permanent molars, are most effective when they are placed soon after the teeth erupt. The procedure costs one-third of the price of filling a cavity, according to Pew. Continue reading

Study: Sugar industry influenced plan to prevent tooth decay

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: Uwe Hermann via Flickr

Photo: Uwe Hermann via Flickr

Under the influence of the sugar industry decades ago, federal health officials stepped back from an ambitious campaign to wipe out tooth decay, according to a newly published study.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed previously unexplored sugar industry documents from the 1960s and early 1970s to reach their conclusions. The paper describing the findings appeared in March in PLOS Medicine.

The documents trace industry interactions with the National Institute of Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research) during a period when health officials were planning to launch the National Caries Program, an initiative with a goal of eradicating tooth decay within a decade. Continue reading

Reporter shares lessons learned about questioning conventional wisdom

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

“The decision to remove wisdom teeth often seems like a routine part of young adulthood. But more people are starting to ask whether it’s always necessary,” Elise Oberliesen told readers of the Los Angeles Times in a recent story.

“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,” she wrote. Continue reading

Journalists around the country track vaccination rates

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.

As many are reporting, the measles outbreak has parents and officials questioning state laws that allow unvaccinated children to attend school, under religious or philosophical exemptions. Forty-eight states allow religious exemptions, according to this map from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

News organizations are compiling interactive maps, databases and other widgets to show vaccination rates by state and, sometimes county. Some allow searching for specific schools.

USA Today has searchable data on exemptions in 13 states, with more to come. The states it covers include California, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia. (Update: As of Feb. 9, it has added Arkansas, Georgia, Washington and Wisconsin.) Continue reading

How, and why, some schools provide dental care for needy children

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.

In a series of stories, “The Burden of Poverty: A Backpack of Heartache,” reporters at the School News Network, based in Grand Rapids, Mich., are exploring the deep challenges poverty creates for local students and their families as well as strategies schools are employing to helping disadvantaged students succeed.

Articles in the series so far have examined the correlation between low test scores and low income and have provided a candid look at the struggles of a nearly homeless honor student. The series has highlighted the ways schools are trying to address the health disparities that can make it harder for poor children to succeed in school.

One recent story looked at the role school nurses play in helping poor children cope with chronic diseases. A Nov. 14 piece explains how a school-based dental program attends to the oral health needs of children who might otherwise be distracted from their studies by the debilitating pain of untreated dental disease. Continue reading

AHCJ members report on health spending in Mozambique

Kris Hickman

About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) 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. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

Noam Levey, who received a 2013 AHCJ Reporting Fellowship on Health Care Performance, recently reported on health care spending in Mozambique for the Los Angeles Times. In the piece, Levey pointed out that Mozambique’s economy is booming – but in contrast, its health care spending is lagging.

The decision to limit health resources had an especially profound effect in remote areas of Mozambique. Levey reported from Chokwe, a rural town about 100 miles north of the coastal capital of Maputo, and described  a newborn baby boy who stopped breathing shortly after his birth, just before sunset.

Nurses were able to revive him with a ventilator and a suction machine. But if he had been born only two hours later, he would have died – limited resources mean the ward is staffed only until 7 p.m.

Continue reading