Category Archives: Public health

Washington Post examines impact of Calif. water shortage on the poor

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.

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

Reaching rural populations and providers: more from #ruralhealth15

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.

Medical 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 Workshop.

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

The reality of rural care: Covering the divide and distance

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: Len Bruzzese/AHCJMore than 60 people attended AHCJ's Rural Health Journalism Workshop on June 19 in Fort Worth, Texas.

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

Workshop to offer look at nation’s rural health landscape #ruralhealth15

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.

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

Eight-part series on hepatitis C finds unique moment in an epidemic

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.

Kristin Espeland Gourlay

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

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.

Communities may see water fluoridation levels drop because of revised recommendations

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.

waterStressing 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

Despite progress fighting HIV, most vulnerable still at risk #ahcj15

Anna Gorman

About Anna Gorman

Anna Gorman (@AnnaGorman) is a senior correspondent with Kaiser Health News. She attended Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-California Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by The California HealthCare Foundation.

HIV-panel

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

Doctor says media coverage of Ebola ‘fanned the hysteria’ #ahcj15

Stephanie Innes

About Stephanie Innes

Stephanie Innes (@stephanieinnes) is a senior health reporter at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson. She attended Health Journalism 2015 on an AHCJ-Rural Health Journalism, which is supported by The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

Kris Hickman/AHCJDeane Marchbien, U.S. president of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, critiqued media coverage of Ebola.

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

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

Investigating the health impacts of fracking

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.

Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Pia Christensen/AHCJ

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?

Continue reading