Membership selects new board members for 2020-2021

Len Bruzzese

About Len Bruzzese

Len Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and served for nearly 20 years in daily journalism.

Joyce Frieden, Washington editor at MedPage Today, and Keren Landman, M.D., a freelance journalist based in Atlanta, join four incumbents in being seated on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2020-21 board of directors.

Incumbents starting a new term include Carrie Feibel, senior editor of the Science Desk at NPR; Tony Leys, health care reporter at the Des Moines Register; Ivan Oransky, M.D., vice president of editorial for Medscape; and Sabriya Rice, Knight chair in health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia.

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How to be more effective in communicating risk to readers

Tara Haelle

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: Sasha You via Flickr

One of the most challenging aspects about reporting on medical research is the need to convey risk in a meaningful way to readers. Human brains are not wired to understand risk in the way we need to understand it in the 21st century. Our brains evolved to assess risks for very different environments and threats than those we face today ― particularly in a time of pandemic.

Those earlier threats were more acute. When people lived as hunters and gatherers, wild animals and anything unfamiliar were the most significant threats. Today’s threats tend to come either from contact with a very familiar object — cars, guns, household chemicals, etc. — or a future risk to develop a chronic and potentially fatal illness. The latter category, which can include conditions such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes, can come from behavior, actions or exposure to a hazardous substance over time. Continue reading

Journalist offers advice on breaking news in the time of COVID-19

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Photo: ChiralJon via FlickrRendering of hydroxychloroquine molecular structure.

The National Institutes of Health last month halted a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for use in treating COVID-19 patients. The NIH ended the trial because the antimalarial drug, while safe, was proven to have no benefit to hospitalized patients.

The decision came just three months after President Trump declared the drug a “game-changer” and arranged for the U.S. to purchase 29 million doses to be “immediately available” to the public for treating the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Continue reading

These data resources can help localize studies on medical facility quality control

Tara Haelle

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: Scott & White Healthcare via Flickr

If you cover medical studies for national publications, you rarely have to worry about localizing it to one particular region. But local and state journalists typically have to go deeper when covering a national study for region-specific publications. A new obesity prevalence study is out? How does that compare to obesity rates in your state? In your county? In your city? In your schools? Continue reading

Study: Low vitamin K associated with higher risk of death

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Penn State via Flickr

Be like Popeye. Eat your spinach. And kale. And lettuce. That’s the takeaway from a recent multi-ethnic meta-analysis by researchers at Tufts University.

While the study didn’t prove cause and effect, it did show that the risk of death was nearly 20% higher for older adults with low vitamin K levels compared to those whose levels were adequate. The results suggest vitamin K, a nutrient found in leafy greens and vegetable oils, may have protective health benefits as we age, according to the researchers.

The meta-analysis involved nearly 4,000 Americans between the ages of 54 and 76. One-third of the participants were non-white. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) and Tufts Medical Center categorized participants according to their vitamin K blood levels. They then compared the risk of heart disease and risk of death across the categories over approximately 13 years of follow-up. Continue reading

New data source useful when covering health care professionals

Tara Haelle

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: Deborah Crowe

So much of reporting on medical studies focuses on drugs, treatments, preventive care, health outcomes, risk factors and similar aspects of individual health. It’s easy to forget that there is a whole other area of literature concerned with the people who provide care.

More and more studies are examining burnout and mental health among physicians, nurses and other providers, for example. Health policy often relies on research about workforce trends and shortages. But many of studies only look at the whole nation or a particular region, making difficult to localize the data if you’re not a national reporter. Continue reading