Tag Archives: CDC

AHCJ fellows meet with Atlanta chapter

Andy Miller

About Andy Miller

Andy Miller (@gahealthnews) is the editor and publisher of the nonprofit Georgia Health News. The former health care reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a member of AHCJ's board of directors and leads the association's Atlanta chapter.

The Atlanta chapter of the Association of Health Care Journalists held a social gathering Dec. 10 at the Emory Conference Center Hotel, gathering with the 2013-14 Regional Health Journalism Fellows, who were in town for their visit to the CDC.

Twelve local health journalists and guests shared stories about the Affordable Care Act with fellows from states that, unlike Georgia, are running their own insurance exchanges and are expanding their Medicaid programs under the ACA. Continue reading

Mosquito-borne disease appears in West Indies

Jason Hidalgo

About Jason Hidalgo

Jason Hidalgo is a business reporter at the Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal and a 2013-14 AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellow.

CDC-Frieden2

Photo: Len BruzzeseCDC Director Tom Frieden briefs the 2013-14 AHCJ Regional Health Journalism fellows on Monday morning.

A nasty virus just landed on America’s doorstep.

Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, confirmed the arrival of  “chikungunya” fever in the Caribbean. Frieden made the announcement Monday while talking to a group of West-based AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellows at the CDC in Atlanta.

News of two confirmed cases in the island of St. Martin in the West Indies was reported Friday by The Daily Herald following a press conference by health officials in the region.

Named from the phrase “that which bends up” in Mozambique’s Kimakondan language because of its symptoms, chikungunya was first isolated from a Tanzanian patient in 1953, according to the CDC. Chikungunya exhibits symptoms similar to the dengue virus, including fever, rashes, headache, nausea and muscle pain. The virus is also transmitted through mosquitoes.

Until recently, cases of chikungunya were primarily seen in Africa and Asia. No cases have been reported in the United States, making the Caribbean cases the closest confirmation yet in terms of proximity. Continue reading

AHCJ fellows meet with Frieden during three days of CDC briefings

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. CDC Director Tom Frieden briefs the 2013-14 AHCJ Regional Health Journalism fellows this morning on his agency's latest efforts to address health issues facing the United States.

Photo: Len BruzzeseCDC Director Tom Frieden briefs the 2013-14 AHCJ Regional Health Journalism fellows this morning on his agency’s latest efforts to address health issues facing the United States.

Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met this morning with the AHCJ Regional Health Journalism Fellows in Atlanta.

The fellows are visiting the CDC this week for a series of briefings on public health issues. Today’s topics include prescription drug overdoses, foodborne illnesses, flu and emergency and public health preparedness – including a tour of the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center. Continue reading

Getting past gatekeepers to cover research requires strategy

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

Image by Eric Allix Rogers via flickr.

So you have a great medical study to cover – interesting topic, compelling results. All you need is an interview with the study’s authors to help bring the research home to readers.

That’s where things get tricky. The researcher you need to connect with before your oh-so-tight deadline has letters in his or her affiliation that don’t bode well for timely interviews: FDA, HHS, USDA, CMS.

Scoring an interview with a scientist who works for a government agency can be frustrating and full of dead ends. It shouldn’t be. AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee is working on improving reporters’ access to a number of government agencies.

But change is slow. And your deadlines won’t wait. What can you do today for a story that’s due tomorrow? Continue reading

Atlanta chapter hears from CDC about global health efforts

Andy Miller

About Andy Miller

Andy Miller (@gahealthnews) is the editor and publisher of the nonprofit Georgia Health News. The former health care reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is a member of AHCJ's board of directors and leads the association's Atlanta chapter.

Members of the Atlanta chapter of AHCJ heard a fascinating talk about the CDC’s global reach from Ron Ballard, associate director for laboratory science for the agency’s Center for Global Health.

Ballard, who has traveled extensively in coordinating international lab activities for the CDC, told about 20 journalists at a Sept. 10 meeting that the agency is working in dozens of  countries on activities ranging from disease detection and immunizations to programs fighting HIV/AIDS. Continue reading

CDC official details response to meningitis outbreak

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.

John Jernigan, M.D., M.S., the CDC’s clinical team lead on the multistate meningitis outbreak and director of the CDC’s Office of Health Associated Infections Prevention Research and Evaluation, briefed AHCJ members, including the 2012-13 Regional Health Journalism Fellows, in Atlanta about the agency’s response to the multistate fungal meningitis outbreak.

Thanks to AHCJ board member Maryn McKenna, who used Storify to share information from the briefing as well as a blog post. UPDATE: Tom Wilemon of The Tennessean and Tom Corwin of The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle, both Regional Health Journalism fellows, also wrote about the briefing. Click through to see McKenna’s Storify about the event. Continue reading

Gum disease, with implications for overall health, affects nearly half of Americans

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.

Nearly half of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings could provide a teachable moment for health care journalists.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

The malady’s common name, gum disease, sounds pretty innocuous.  But a definition offered by the CDC provides a glimpse at its deeper implications for oral and overall health.

“Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. It can range from a mild inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth (gingivitis) to irreversible chronic destruction of both the soft and hard (bone) tissues supporting the teeth (periodontitis). The more severe form can lead to tooth loss.”

The study, published online Aug 30 by the Journal of Dental Research, found that about 47 percent of U.S. adults ages 30 and older had periodontitis. In adults ages 65 years and older, an estimated 70 percent have periodontitis.

The study was conducted in a sample of 3,743 adults who received an examination as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 2009 and 2010.

“This study shows that the prevalence of periodontal disease is high – nearly half of all American adults have periodontitis and the percentage increases to nearly three-fourths of older adults,” said the report’s lead author,  Paul Eke, a CDC epidemiologist. Continue reading

Reporter recounts fellowship visit to CDC

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.

This is a guest post from Winnie Yu, a freelance journalist based in Voorheesville, N.Y. She was among this year’s class of AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows who spent last week studying public health issues at two Atlanta campuses of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fellows met with Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.

The fellows met with Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. (Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ)

Life can get lonely when you work as a freelance writer. So it was a real thrill for me last week when I got the chance to attend the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowship and listen to experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discuss the most pressing health issues of our day.

Ten journalists from around the country came to Atlanta to hear presentations on topics as varied as motor vehicle safety, vaccines, patient safety and prescription drug abuse. It was quickly apparent that the CDC is much more than the authority on when to get your vaccines.

We heard from numerous experts, including Mike Bell, M.D., associate director for Infection Control for the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion; William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion; and Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of the Division of Diabetes Translation for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. We also enjoyed a brief presentation from the CDC’s director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

Each day ended with a tour. We saw the CDC’s emergency operations center, walked through the tobacco lab and peered in at scientists probing for foodborne illnesses. We looked at viruses under a microscope, marveled at slides the size of a pinhead (used under an electron microscope) and winced at the amount of nicotine that smokers continue to inhale from cigarettes.

And while I couldn’t get the tour guide to tell us where the United States hides its stockpile of smallpox – Russia has the only other one – I was amazed by the challenges that researchers must endure in order to work in the pathogen labs, including chemical showers and protective suits that preclude regular visits to the bathroom. Not surprisingly, we learned that a calm and even temperament is a requirement for the job.

No doubt, some of the information we already knew: Americans weigh more than ever. Autism is on the rise. Diabetes is a major health issue. But we also learned that polio remains a persistent problem in some parts of the world, tuberculosis still afflicts some segments of our population and the United States takes its role as a world leader seriously when it comes to public health.

It was truly an honor to be part of this fellowship, to get an up-close glimpse of the CDC and to share my time with a great group of journalists who were smart, funny and great dinner companions. I have no doubt the experience will spawn story ideas, beef up our source lists and provide ample background for future articles.  I know it will for me.

Find health data at Childstats.gov, a clearinghouse for kid numbers

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism, and he has blogged for Covering Health ever since.

Time to add another link to your “federal data clearinghouses” folder, if you haven’t already. Childstats.gov, published by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, synthesizes data from the CDC, NCHS, National Children’s Survey, AHRQ, Census and other specialized programs.

kidsPhoto by nasa hq photo via Flickr

The site is anchored by its annual report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being,” and the easy-to-navigate nature of its databases seems to have already inspired some discussion on Twitter, particularly in relation to child homelessness.

Many of the data tools are simply links to general surveys (like AHRQ’s National Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project) that just happen to contain child-related information, but there are some more specifically relevant data sources, the best of which I’ve listed below.

Health officials clashed over alerting public to fungal infection in wake of Joplin tornado

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.

Following the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., county public health officials found themselves in conflict with state officials about alerting the public to an aggressive fungal infection that was showing up in people who were injured in the storm and its aftermath.

According to emails obtained by Sarah Okeson of the Springfield, Mo., News-Leader, state officials were concerned about panicking the public and declined to issue the alert.

joplin-hospital

Photo by Red Cross: Carl Manning GKCARC via Flickr

Local officials, on the other hand, say they wanted to “ensure that any hospital/health care provider would recognize the illness in a timely manner and begin aggressive anti-fungal treatment.” Faced with a denial from the state, the local officials issued a limited alert to 43 health care contacts and to health care providers.

A week after the county’s request – and two days after the News-Leader ran a story written by Okeson about the fungal infections – the state issued a health advisory.

The infections drew the interest of federal officials, including Benjamin Park, who leads an epidemiology team at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Park repeatedly emailed acting state epidemiologist Dr. George Turabelidze offering assistance and emphasizing that “There could be some important public health information that is obtained from this (risk factors, exposures, environmental sampling?) that would be important for future disaster events.” In one email, Park refers to receiving “inquiries all the way up to HHS secretary about this.”

Guidance for releasing information in a public health crisis

The Association of Health Care Journalists recently worked with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) to develop guidelines for releasing information in a public health crisis.

“Stories like these raise questions about how public health agencies respond to outbreaks,” said Charles Ornstein, president of AHCJ’s board of directors. “That’s why I’m particularly glad that AHCJ has worked alongside ASTHO and NACCHO to come up with guidance about the type of information that should be released in public health emergencies. Working collaboratively, journalists and public health officials can improve the information shared during outbreaks and earn the public’s trust.”

The guidelines include advice to health official to consider publicizing an illness or death when “A major epidemic or novel illness is emerging, or a natural disaster or other major event affecting public health has occurred or is anticipated.”

The guidance emphasizes the importance of openness, stating that information should be withheld only when there is a clearly justified reason.

Related