With record rainfall in parts of the United States this summer, people in some of the nation’s wettest areas – including Washington, D.C. – may find it hard to imagine going even just a few days without rain showers.
But The Washington Post recently took a look at the impact of California’s drought on the poor in two of the state’s rural valleys. National reporter Darryl Fears traveled to Mecca, Calif., to show how the ongoing lack of water is hitting low-income residents especially hard, affecting what they drink, how they bathe and what they eat. Continue reading
Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJMedical student Russell Stanley (left) and Dr. Kevin Blanton (right) share the stresses and triumphs of providing care in rural settings at AHCJ’s June 19 Rural Health Journalism Workshop.
Distance dominated much of the conversation at AHCJ’s recent Rural Health Journalism Workshop in Fort Worth, Texas, a vast state with wide open spaces and far-flung cities.
While such expanses can offer a quiet alternative to urban areas, panelists at #ruralhealth15 also noted that such isolation can impact not only health, but education and other community resources. And that can present another challenge: attracting health professions to rural pockets to provide needed care for residents. Continue reading
Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJMore than 70 people attended AHCJ’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop on June 19 in Fort Worth, Texas.
At a glance, the Dallas-Fort Worth area doesn’t seem so remote. Touching down in northern Texas, there’s a glut of restaurants, a Starbucks (there’s always a Starbucks) and, soon, a maze of highways.
But head from the airport to AHCJ’s Rural Health Journalism Workshop (#ruralhealth15) in downtown Fort Worth, and one of the major health care challenges facing non-urban areas quickly becomes clear: distance. On the road from Dallas to Fort Worth stretch miles of pavement. One Texas injury clinic along the way doesn’t look much different than the auto shops and loan stores it is sandwiched between along the busy route.
In fact, this metropolitan region was the model setting for the more than 70 people who attended the daylong program – a vast state with many isolated pockets close to Oklahoma and other states with similar challenges that can put rural residents at the bottom rung of the U.S. health care system. Continue reading
A lot has been made of mapping health care lately, from states and counties to ZIP codes and income. But take a step back, and a lot of the issues facing health care writers and policymakers are part of the nation’s larger rural-urban divide.
The Association for Health Care Journalists is offering a chance on June 19 for health writers to explore what is happening in America’s less populated areas as well as the emerging trends at its Rural Health Journalism Workshop. Continue reading
Kristin Espeland Gourlay
While working on a documentary about opioid addiction, Kristin Espeland Gourlay, the health care reporter for Rhode Island Public Radio, discovered there was another story waiting to be covered: hepatitis C.
She writes that new drugs had hit the market with reported cure rates of 95 percent or more, but they cost upwards of $90,000 for a full course. She found that the arrival of these new drugs coincides with another trend: Millions of baby boomers who contracted the disease decades ago are just now showing up in doctors’ offices and emergency rooms, sick with something most didn’t know they had.
Photo: Pia Christensen/AHCJ
Add to that a wave of new infections, spreading among younger injection drug users – people who got hooked on opioids and then turned to heroin – and she found that it was a unique moment in the history of an epidemic.
In this AHCJ article, she shares what she learned, what sources she used, as well as a list of potential story ideas. As she points out, this epidemic will impact many lives but also state budgets.
Read how she did her reporting and what she learned.
Stressing that community water fluoridation remains an important tool in fighting tooth decay, public health officials have updated their recommendation for the “optimal” level of fluoride in drinking water nationwide.
The new standard, 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, was announced on April 27 by the U.S. Department of Human Services.
The level replaces a recommended range of 0.7 mg to 1.2 mg of fluoride per liter of water in place since 1962.
The optimal level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considered to be when the amount fluoride in drinking water is adequate to help prevent tooth decay in children and adults while limiting risk of problems such as fluorosis, a discoloration or mottling of the tooth enamel that can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride. Continue reading
Pia Christensen/AHCJSharon Hillier, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, discusses the pre-exposure prophylaxis pill, or PrEP, which can help prevent HIV infection.
HIV prevention and treatment have undergone a revolution since the disease first appeared, but there are still barriers to reaching the most at-risk populations, HIV experts said during a session at Health Journalism 2015.
While HIV patients in 1985 had a life expectancy of at most 10 years, now they are living into old age and are more likely to die from smoking, said Brad Hare, director of HIV care and prevention at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco.
Researchers are working toward a cure and people without HIV can take a prevention pill to keep them from becoming infected. Continue reading
Kris Hickman/AHCJDeane Marchbien, U.S. president of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, critiqued media coverage of Ebola.
Media coverage of the Ebola epidemic did a disservice to the public and, “a reckoning is due,” a Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders leader told health care journalists gathered in Silicon Valley last month.
“Instead of focusing on the medical literature and the facts related to Ebola, many of your colleagues fanned the hysteria and the frenzy and the fear,” Deane Marchbein, M.D., told journalists gathered for Health Journalism 2015, the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference, in Santa Clara, Calif.
“An opportunity to educate, inform and reassure was, to a great degree, missed.”
Ebola dominated the headlines only when an American became infected, said Marchbein, who is president of the U.S. Board of Directors for MSF/Doctors Without Borders and was the keynote lunchtime speaker. Continue reading
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
The fracking controversy has been high profile in recent years, and tempers are short on all sides of the subject. Some groups see natural gas and the process used to extract it – hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – as a boon to energy production in the U.S., while others see it as a pernicious threat to people and the environment.
As shown in this New York Times interactive infographic, fracking (sometimes called “unconventional gas drilling”) is a complicated process. It involves high-pressure injection of fluids into natural gas reserves that lie thousands of feet underground, trapped in layers of shale. In addition, there’s a landslide of conflicting information and anecdotal evidence.
So, as a reporter, how do you sift through the various interests and pull out a story that is relevant to your community?