Category Archives: Public health

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

Sullivan, autobiography recognized with NAACP Image Award

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.

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ

Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ

Louis W. Sullivan, who spoke to Health Journalism 2014 attendees about his just-released autobiography, has won an NAACP Image Award for the book.

Sullivan, the founding dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine – the first predominantly black medical school – served as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President George H.W. Bush from 1989-93. 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

NIH cautions older adults, caregivers to be vigilant about hypothermia

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.

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Photo: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Hypothermia is a dangerous drop in body temperature that may result in long term, serious health problems such as a heart attack, kidney or liver damage, or death.

Older adults are especially vulnerable to hypothermia because their body’s response to cold is often diminished by underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. Certain medications, including over-the-counter cold remedies, can also affect the body’s response to temperature.

According to the National Institute on Aging, hypothermia is generally defined as having a core body temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. It can occur when the outside environment gets too cold or the body’s heat production decreases. Hypothermia can develop in older adults even after relatively short exposure to cold weather or a small drop in temperature. Recent CDC data shows that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the 2,000 weather related deaths for all ages between 2006-10 were due to exposure to excessive cold, hypothermia, or both. Between 1999 and 2002, 49 percent of those who died from hypothermia were aged 65 or older, 67 percent were male. Continue reading

Flu hitting seniors hard across the country

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.

Image via CDC.gov

It’s the first week of January and winter seems to have finally arrived with a vengeance. In addition to the cold and snow, many older adults are also fighting this year’s flu.

The CDC reports the virus is widespread in 43 states — from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications with older adults and those with respiratory problems at especially high risk.

Some 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 are hospitalized from its complications.

By the first day of 2015, CDC’s influenza surveillance systems were showing “elevated” activity, including increasing hospitalizations rates in people 65 years and older. CBS Atlanta reported that “flu-related hospitalizations for the elderly have doubled from this time last year” across the country. Media outlets report increased flu-related deaths among local elderly in recent days. Continue reading

Lessons learned in covering passage of a soda tax

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.

Tom Lochner

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4 elections, Tom Lochner covered the debate over soda tax questions on the ballots in Berkeley and San Francisco. When the results became clear, he reported on the outcome for the Contra Costa Times.

In this Q&A, Lochner offers his insights into how the historic vote in Berkeley unfolded, why the soda tax didn’t pass in San Francisco and he shares a few words of wisdom for reporters who may find themselves covering soda tax debates in their own communities.

Berkeley’s penny-an-ounce tax passed in spite of heavy opposition from the American Beverage Association. Bourque predicted a sea change in the air. “The tides have turned on Big Soda.”

In this Q&A, Lochner offers his insights into how the historic vote in Berkeley unfolded and he shares a few words of wisdom with reporters who may find themselves covering soda tax debates in their own communities.