New tip sheet: The impact of climate change on health equity

About Melba Newsome

Melba Newsome is AHCJ's core topic leader for health equity and a veteran freelance journalist with more than 20 years’ experience. Her health and science features have appeared in Health Affairs, Oprah, Prevention, Scientific American, Chemical & Engineering News and North Carolina Health News.

Photo by Dr. Matthias Ripp via Flickr

I have reported extensively on the COVID-19 pandemic with many of my stories highlighting health care disparities. I quickly noticed the intersection with environmental issues and climate change. Before long, I could barely write about one topic without writing about the other they were so intertwined.

When President Biden created the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) last summer, I realized I hadn’t made some brilliant discovery, I was simply catching up to what the public health and environmental thought leaders had known for some time. It’s hard to overstate the interconnections between climate change and health equity. The root causes and upstream drivers for both are often the same. 

This is an opportune time for journalists who aren’t already doing so to begin reporting on climate change as a health equity issue. 

When it comes to health inequities or preventable differences in health outcomes, climate change is one of the biggest public health threats today. The consequences of this global phenomenon impacts places, people and communities at the local level with low-wealth communities and communities of color caring a substantially higher burden.

The new climate change tip sheet includes research and studies to help journalists better understand the connection between health equity and climate change, resources, experts, organizations, suggested story ideas such as the impact on particular communities, as well as relevant terms and definitions. 

Rural liver cancer rates on the rise: How journalists can raise awareness

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

Photo by Wei Sandy via Flickr

Though liver cancer rates have historically been lower in rural areas, they have recently increased and urban rates have started to slow down, according to a new study. These findings highlight the growing disparities between rural and urban health.

Some of the biggest stories in recent years about urban-rural health disparities have focused on opioid dependence and deaths, but the topic is rich with other story ideas that need public awareness — including ones that are connected to the opioid epidemic. Given what the most common causes of liver cancer are, the results of this new study hint at other upstream health issues that are becoming growing problems in rural areas, especially when other cancer rates, such as breast, lung, and colorectal cancer, have been falling in the same places.

Study methodology

Kali Zhou, M.D., one of the study’s lead authors, and her colleagues looked at trends of hepatocellular carcinoma — one of the nation’s fastest growing cancers — in adults over age 20 during the past two decades (1995-2016). They used the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries database which covers 93% of the U.S., including large swaths of the rural population.

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With new market guides, freelance center is up to date

About Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantel (@BJMantel), an independent journalist, is AHCJ’s freelance community correspondent. Her work has appeared in CQ Researcher, Rural Health Quarterly, Undark, Healthline, NBCNews.com and NPR, among others. She helps members find the resources they need to succeed as freelancers and welcomes your suggestions.

Photo by Coffee Channel via Flickr

Most of the guides in the Freelance Center are now current. I hope to update the remaining two by the end of the month and will continue reaching out to editors for new market guides.

Let me know if you would like to see pitching instructions from a particular publication or if you have a contact for a publication that you think I should approach. You can contact me at freelance@healthjournalism.org.

The latest additions included revised guides for Cosmopolitan, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News and Nature Medicine and a new guide for Prevention. I’d like to thank freelance medical writer and editor Erin Boyle and AHCJ board member Jeanne Erdmann for their help.

Cosmopolitan pays $2 per word for print stories, but the print magazine is published only nine times a year. Not every issue will have a health story, according to Lifestyle Director Ashley Oerman. The fee for digital stories depends on the amount of reporting required and the writer’s experience level. Those story ideas are often generated by Cosmo’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team. Nevertheless, Oerman said she welcomes freelance pitches for both print and digital, especially around mental health and the health care system. Story ideas should be tailored to the target audience, women ages 18-35.

Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News is a monthly print magazine and website aimed at a specialized audience of health care providers. Managing Editor Adam Marcus said freelancers have the most success pitching him feature stories, which typically range from 900 to 1,200 words. Fees start at 75 cents per word and can go higher depending on the amount of research and the number of interviews. “One thing that many freelancers don’t understand, initially, when writing for us is that we’re not looking for consumer-oriented news or features,” Marcus said. “We’re looking for things that are directed at practicing gastroenterologists.”

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Joint Commission campaign may spark new stories on discrimination in medical care

About Kerry Dooley Young

Kerry Dooley Young (@kdooleyyoung) is AHCJ's core topic leader on patient safety. She has written extensively about the Food and Drug Administration, medical research, health policy and quality measurements. Her work has appeared in Medscape Medical News, Congressional Quarterly/CQ Roll Call and Bloomberg News.

Ana Pujols McKee, M.D. (Photo courtesy of The Joint Commission)

A new Joint Commission campaign encouraging people to report health care discrimination could give journalists a window into how hospitals and medical groups are tackling this problem.

On Oct. 5, the commission announced an expansion of its long-running “Speak Up Against Discrimination” program with a new campaign to address discrimination. Since 2002, the Speak Up campaign has worked to help make patients and health care professionals more aware of issues including the risk of errors with prescribed drugs and preventable falls.

For those new to the health beat, The Joint Commission is a nonprofit that accredits U.S. hospitals. That gives it clout in helping to shape how medical care is delivered. Many hospitals rely on accreditation by The Joint Commission to qualify for Medicaid and Medicare payments.

The Speak Up campaign is a step toward larger and long-term efforts to address systemic racism in U.S. medical care, said Ana Pujols McKee, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer, chief diversity, and inclusion officer of the commission.

Leaders in hospitals and medical offices need to commit to identifying and addressing racism and other forms of discrimination in their organizations, McKee told AHCJ. Medical staff and hospital administrators may not understand how frequently their patients receive poor treatment because of prejudices, she explained.

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Report: Pop-up clinics, other outreach, boosted vaccination of severely mentally ill

About Katti Gray

Katti Gray (@kattigray) is AHCJ's core topic leader for behavioral and mental health. A former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow, Gray is providing resources to help AHCJ members expand their coverage of mental health amid ongoing efforts to de-stigmatize mental illness and to place mental health care on par with all health care.

Photo by Alachua County via Flickr

Although people with schizophrenia, severe bipolar disorder and other serious psychiatric disorders worldwide have been less likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19, people with mental illness in one Georgia county got vaccinated at a higher rate than people without mental illness, according to a September 2021 survey conducted by the Washington D.C.-based Treatment Advocacy Center and Clubhouse International.

The latter, which does advocacy and programming for the mentally ill in 30 countries, marked that achievement in Floyd County, Ga. by persuading public health officials to do pop-up clinics at Clubhouse headquarters, said Lisa Dailey, executive director of The Treatment Advocacy Center. What Clubhouse accomplished in Floyd County — where 61% to 80% of Clubhouse members but 10.1% of all county residents were vaccinated as of mid-June 2021 — exemplifies what can happen when health officials and advocates for the mentally ill coalesce. Continue reading