Category Archives: Health data

New data reveal trend in binge drinking #ahcj15

Jocelyn Wiener

About Jocelyn Wiener

Jocelyn Wiener is an independent journalist in Oakland, Calif. She is attending Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-California Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by The California HealthCare Foundation.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAli Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discusses new data on alcohol use in the United States.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAli Mokdad of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington discusses new data on alcohol use in the United States.

Binge drinking and heavy drinking in the United States increased significantly in recent years, particularly among women, according to a new study presented today by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

While the overall rate of drinking remained constant between 2005 and 2012, heavy drinking increased 17.2 percent and binge drinking increased 8.9 percent during that time.

Heavy drinking was defined as averaging more than one drink per day during the past month (for women) or two drinks (for men). Binge drinking was defined as having four or more drinks at one occasion in the past month (for women) and five or more (for men). Continue reading

Why reporters should check the data in a ‘brief’

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 and Home Care Technology report. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

A recent data brief from the National Center for Health Statistics reported a 23 percent increase in the age-adjusted hypertension-related death rate from 2000 to 2013. In that same period, the rate for all other causes of death combined decreased 21 percent. The report, “Hypertension-related Mortality in the United States, 2000–2013” is part of a series from the Centers for Disease Control on myriad health issues, morbidity and mortality.

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Photo: Morgan via Flickr

Such reports, while an interesting starting point for a story, can easily be taken out of context and mislead your audience. That’s why building a stable of reliable health care experts to whom you can show the data and quote in your story is important.

The authors of the NCHS brief defined hypertension-related mortality as “any mention of hypertension on the death certificate or as the underlying cause of death.” Continue reading

Survey shows improvement in preschoolers’ dental health, but disparities persist

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.

Though deep disparities in oral health remain, preliminary findings in a new federal report suggest that tooth decay among American preschool children may be declining overall.

Bruce Dye

Experts stress that the study, detailed in a National Center for Health Statistics data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflects just two years’ worth of data, but hail the news as hopeful.

About 23 percent of children age 2 to 5 years had decay in primary teeth, according to 2011-2012 data from the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which has become an important tool for assessing the state of the nation’s oral health. Continue reading

Health Journalism 2015 agenda covers gamut of health care

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.

<span class="credit">Pia Christensen/AHCJ</span>AHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at <em>The Philadelphia Inquirer</em>, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

Pia Christensen/AHCJAHCJ President Karl Stark, the assistant managing editor, business, health and science at The Philadelphia Inquirer, gives tips on covering hospital finance at Health Journalism 2014.

We have posted descriptions of nearly all of the panels planned for Health Journalism 2015 and it’s an agenda packed with timely and useful sessions for anyone covering health.

Field trips on Thursday will feature trips to Stanford University, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Stanford Health Care, Stanford National Accelerator Laboratory, the Division of Clinical Anatomy at Stanford University and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System to learn about simulation training, pediatric heart care, hospital disaster preparation, veterans’ rehabilitation, early detection of cancer and much more. Continue reading

For AHCJ members: Access data about medical education, training

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the special projects director for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

Photo: Mercy Health via Flickr

In its ongoing effort to shed light on physician residency programs, AHCJ is announcing a new benefit for members: Access to national rankings calculated based on 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified physicians, with geographic weighting.

Last summer, AHCJ called for more transparency about the accreditation of physician residency programs, so the public can be better informed about the quality of graduate medical education programs in their communities.

In a letter sent 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. But AHCJ asked ACGME to publish additional information, including why individual programs and institutions have favorable or less-than-favorable accreditation status and the percentage of residents who pass their board exams.

While ACGME declined to provide that additional information, AHCJ has worked with Doximity Inc. to provide members the first comprehensive national research on residency programs. Continue reading

Precision Medicine Initiative: Some quick resources

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 White House has announced its anticipated “Precision Medicine Initiative,” which it describes as an “emerging field of medicine that takes into account individual differences in people’s genes, microbiomes, environments, and lifestyles – making possible more effective, targeted treatments for diseases like cancer and diabetes. ”

Health Journalism 2014 featured a panel about personalized medicine and the presentations from “Getting personal: The medical and ethical challenges of using genetic information” may offer some story ideas and considerations for reporters who are explaining President Barack Obama’s proposal.  Continue reading

DC journalists dig into secrets behind AMA’s physician payment committee

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.

A secretive committee of the American Medical Association exaggerates how much physician time and effort is involved in performing many medical procedures, according to an analysis of the committee’s work by journalists at The Washington Post.

That exaggeration skews payment in favor or physician specialists and at the expense of primary care physicians, according to the article by the Post’s Dan Keating (@dtkeating) and Peter Whoriskey (@PeterWhoriskey).

The claim that the committee overstates the time involved to do many procedures has been reported previously. What is unusual about Keating and Whoriskey’s analysis of the AMA’s 31-member Relative Value Update Committee is that they calculated the committee’s estimates of the time involved for physicians to do many procedures and found the numbers to be off by as much as 100 percent in favor of specialist physicians. Continue reading

Taking a different look at readmission metrics, penalties

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.

One of the high-profile programs within the Affordable Care Act is the drive to reduce preventable hospital readmissions among the Medicare population. The program focuses on fee-for-service patients who came back to the hospital within 30 days. Hospitals in the third year of the program face a fine of up to 3 percent of their Medicare payments. Kaiser Health News analyzed the most recent CMS hospital data, and found more than 2,600 hospitals faced penalties in the last round and could lose $400 million.

Reducing unnecessary hospitalizations is a good idea, pretty much a slam-dunk quality move.

But is the readmissions program using the right metrics? Are hospitals that are doing all the right things cutting both readmissions and admissions – and therefore facing penalties because the proportion isn’t dropping, the readmission rate is the same share of the total admissions? Some new research suggests that may be the case. As Joanne Lynn, M.D., a geriatrician and prominent health policy researcher put it (and I’m paraphrasing), it’s the denominator, stupid. Continue reading

Lindberg, NLM’s health informatics pioneer, to retire

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.

don-lindberg

National Library of MedicineNLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, with artwork inspired by NLM’s Visible Human Project.

Don Lindberg, M.D., who has served as director of the National Library of Medicine for more than 30 years, will retire at the end of March 2015.

In a statement, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, described Lindberg as “an expert and groundbreaking innovator in the world of information technology, artificial intelligence, computer-aided medical diagnosis, and electronic health records.”

Lindberg, under whose tenure the AHCJ-NLM Health Journalism Fellowships were developed, was the first president of the American Medical Informatics Association. The organization says that many of its members “have benefitted from his strong leadership in training programs, research activities, and educational programs.” The AMIA recognizes his contributions to the field with its annual Donald A.B. Lindberg Award for Innovations in Informatics.

Collins described many of Lindberg’s contributions, many of which are tools regularly used by health journalists, with some historical perspective:

Don has created programs that changed fundamentally the way biomedical information is collected, shared, and analyzed. Think about it-when Don began, NLM had no electronic journals in its collection, few people owned personal computers, and even fewer had access to the Internet. He introduced numerous landmark projects such as free Internet access to MEDLINE via PubMed, MedlinePlus for the general public, the Visible Human Project, ClinicalTrials.gov, the Unified Medical Language System, and more. Don also created the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). NCBI has been a focal point for “Big Data” in biomedicine for decades, providing rapid access to the data generated by the Human Genome Project and now to massive amounts of genetic sequence data generated from evolving high-throughput sequencing technologies. GenBank, PubMed Central, and dbGaP are just some of the many NCBI databases that support and enable access to the results of research funded by NIH and many other organizations.

According to the NLM website, Lindberg is the author of three books, several book chapters and more than 200 articles and reports. He has served as editor and editorial board member of nine publications, including the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Latest Leapfrog scores show hospitals need to improve patient safety

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.

A new report from the Leapfrog Group couldn’t be more timely given the attention hospitals have received recently on the need to improve patient safety, particularly infection-control procedures.

hospital corridor

Image by Julie Kertesz via flickr.

On Wednesday, Leapfrog released a report showing a lack of progress on patient outcomes and a decline on certain patient-safety measures, such as preventing surgical site infections during major colon surgery.

The data also show that hospitals made improvements in processes and safe practices, such as instituting hand-hygiene policies and physician staffing in intensive care units. For the safety scores of 2,500 general hospitals, Leapfrog assigns A, B, C, D and F grades based on a hospital’s ability to prevent errors, injuries and infections.

Continue reading