Category Archives: Right to know

How the Flint water crisis has further exposed health disparities

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 water crisis brewing in Flint, Mich., for nearly two years exposed children and others to lead from contaminated water. It also exposed health disparities from infrastructure. Glass of Water via photopin (license)

A water crisis brewing in Flint, Mich., for nearly two years exposed children and others to lead from contaminated water. It also exposed health disparities from infrastructure. Glass of Water via photopin (license)

The ongoing water quality crisis in Flint, Mich., highlights many public health issues, but shines its brightest light on health disparities, too.

Residents of the struggling community, about an hour northwest of Detroit, began complaining about problems with their tap water almost as soon as the city – under the control of a state manager – began pumping water from Flint River to fill the gap after switching providers in 2013.

It’s something that would have never happened in one of Detroit’s wealthier, leafy suburbs, according to Nancy Kaffer, a political columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Continue reading

Weaving data, human stories into compelling series on dental deaths

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.

Brooks Egerton

Brooks Egerton

In early 2014, a 4-year-old Dallas boy named Salomon Barahona Jr. died after undergoing sedation for a dental procedure.

The child’s death spurred Dallas Morning News reporter Brooks Egerton to embark upon what turned out to be a major reporting project – an 18-month investigation of dental safety in the United States.

Egerton sifted through thousands of records detailing patient harm and endangerment drawn from many sources: state and federal regulators, police, coroners, academic researchers, courts, litigators, insurers, dental schools and dentists themselves. Continue reading

HHS to recognize AHCJ membership as credential for press events

Irene M. Wielawski

About Irene M. Wielawski

Irene M. Wielawski (@wielawski), a founding member of AHCJ, is an independent writer and editor specializing in health care and policy. Wielawski, a member of AHCJ's board of directors, is chair of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee and serves on the Freelance and the Finance and Development committees.

HHS-press-conferenceThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to recognize membership in the Association of Health Care Journalists as sufficient credential for any media briefing or press event sponsored by HHS or its agencies.

The HHS recognition provides a powerful lever for AHCJ members, especially freelancers, when they encounter obstacles to obtaining credentials at medical society and scientific meetings. Now members can point out that the federal government considers AHCJ membership adequate proof of a reporter’s legitimacy.

Representing AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, Vice Chair Felice J. Freyer and I brokered the agreement in one of our periodic problem-solving calls with the HHS public affairs leadership. Continue reading

For successful information requests, be familiar with guidelines for HHS public affairs staff

Irene M. Wielawski

About Irene M. Wielawski

Irene M. Wielawski (@wielawski), a founding member of AHCJ, is an independent writer and editor specializing in health care and policy. Wielawski, a member of AHCJ's board of directors, is chair of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee and serves on the Freelance and the Finance and Development committees.

GraphicStock

GraphicStock

A year ago, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee brokered an appeals process with the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services media office for reporters facing unreasonable delays or inadequate responses from agency public information officers.

I’m happy to report that we’ve had a number of successes since then in clearing information logjams for individual reporters and policing violations of HHS’s media policy. But a year’s experience with this process has also made us wiser about what we need from AHCJ members to be effective. Continue reading

Debunking myths designed to hinder price, quality transparency efforts

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.

When writing about transparency in health care prices and quality, journalists should expose the myths that health care providers promote. That’s the advice Francois de Brantes gave during a session on price and quality transparency at Health Journalism 2015 last month.

The executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute (HCI3), de Brantes (@Fdebrantes) said, “Call them on their bull sh–. Their arguments against price and quality transparency are bogus.”

Yet when state legislatures consider laws promoting the public reporting of health care prices and quality ratings, provider organizations often lobby against these laws. “What are they protecting?” he asked. “Doesn’t the public have a right to know?” Continue reading