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About AHCJ: General News

President’s corner: AHCJ continues to add and maintain essential core topics Date: 04/01/19

By Ivan Oransky, M.D.

Later this year will mark the 20th an­niversary of the publication of a re­port that, for many of us in health care journalism, sounded a clarion call. The Institute of Medicine’s “To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” minced no words: “At least 44,000 people, and perhaps as many as 98,000 people, die in hospitals each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented, according to estimates from two major studies.”

We are still grappling with the rami­fications of that report. So it is fitting that AHCJ is about to launch a core topic on patient safety, with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

But patient safety is just one of nine core topics you’ll find on healthjournal­ism.org. These frequently updated re­sources include everything from blog posts to glossaries of key terms to data sources and “how I did it” tip sheets writ­ten by journalists who’ve done notewor­thy work. We’ve managed to add, on aver­age, better than one new essential topic center – and the funding to support it – every year for the past seven years. And we continue to ramp up these resources.

There’s health reform, led by Joanne Kenen, one of the most experienced health care policy reporters in the busi­ness. From 1332 waivers to women’s pre­ventive health care, Kenen has guided AHCJ members through the complexities and political fights of the Affordable Care Act and beyond. Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its sup­port of our coverage of this subject. (A note: None of our funders dictate or di­rect any of the material that appears on the site.)

As we and our parents age, Liz Seegert helps journalists and their read­ers, listeners and viewers navigate the challenges of making choices about elder care, looking out for signs of dementia, and more. Want to know more about the Death Certificate Project? Seegert has you covered. We’re grateful to the John A. Hartford Foundation for sponsorship that makes this possible.

When you want to sink your teeth – sorry! – into an oft-untold story, head on over to our oral health core topic section. There, with crucial support from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Mary Otto, who has been writing about oral health for more than a decade, will help you brush up – sorry again! – on everything from amal­gam separator to xerostomia.

I’ve been covering scientific papers for 20 years – after going to medical school before that – and still learn something every time I read a post from Tara Haelle, our medical studies topic leader. “As dry and formal as medical studies may seem, they also have beating hearts,” as the core topic’s introduction says. Haelle’s own beat runs the gamut from p values to prospective studies. Correlation isn’t causation, as Haelle would be quick to note, but I’m betting you’ll be a better reporter if you make use of these resources. The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has been generously supporting this important topic area.

Joseph Burns is our topic leader for a subject that could be even more dry than those medical studies seem, but he finds ways to remind members that stories about health insurance are really stories about people – people like the “physician starting an online fundraising effort to keep her practice open.” Thanks to the Missouri Foundation for Health for its support of what has become a topic of daily discussion.

Having health insurance is, of course, just one part of the picture. As our social determinants and disparities topic leader Emily Willingham notes, “In our society, wealth makes health.” These are difficult but fascinating stories to tell. Thanks to the support of the W.K. Kellogg Founda­tion, we can help you tell them.

Have you ever asked your health care professional about his or her electronic health record system? If not, be prepared for horror stories. Our health informa­tion technology topic leader, Rebecca Vesely, has heard them all, and more. Visit our collection of resources – sup­ported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation – on where to find these tales and unpack the policies behind them.

As I write this, the Democratic Re­public of Congo is battling another Ebola outbreak. With such outbreaks – and an­tibiotic resistance – on the rise, it’s criti­cal for health care journalists to have ac­curate and up-to-date information about infectious diseases. That’s where Bara Vaida, our infectious diseases core topic leader, comes in. She can help you find that local angle that will engage your au­dience. Thanks to the Helmsley Charita­ble Trust for its support of our coverage of this subject.

We’re regularly adding to our list of core topics. Look out soon for a freelance community correspondent to join the roster, just another way AHCJ is doing our best to serve members. Have a sug­gestion for the lineup? Drop us a line.

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is vice president, edito­rial at Medscape and Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University’s Ar­thur L. Carter Journalism Institute.