Covering Health is a blog maintained by the Association of Health Care Journalists. It is intended to keep journalists who report on health and health care issues informed about the latest news in the field, aware of noteworthy stories and reports, and able to connect with colleagues.
The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. There are more than 1,500 members of AHCJ.
Along with its 501(c)3 educational arm – The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism – AHCJ offers training opportunities, fellowships, publications, tip sheets, articles and web resources for reporters covering all aspects of health care journalism, including medical research, public policy, consumer health, health law, clinical health, public health, ethics and the business of health care. Be sure to see the wide range of resources available on our website for reporters who cover health and medicine.
Covering Health is produced by a group of contributing editors/moderators:
Andrew Smiley, executive director
Smiley is the new executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also has been named an assistant professor of professional practice at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports, where he most recently served as coordinating director. He also spent a decade at ESPN in programming and studio directing, where he won an Emmy, and a short stint with the PBS affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn. Smiley holds communications degrees from Berry College in Georgia and the University of Hartford in Connecticut, and is completing coursework toward an executive MBA degree from Washington State University.
Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia), managing editor/online services, AHCJ
Christensen manages and edits the content on healthjournalism.org. She assists with the editing and production of AHCJ’s publications, including books, conference programs and the newsletter. In 2010, she was featured in “Journalists to Follow: 20 industry thinkers, innovators and practitioners we recommend you get to know” in Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists. She previously was publications coordinator for Investigative Reporters and Editors, where she oversaw website content, edited IRE publications and assisted advertisers. She worked as a copy editor and an interactive producer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a producer for Tribune Interactive, a sports copy editor for the Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal, and was job and internship coordinator at the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism in San Francisco.
Jeff Porter, director of education, AHCJ
Porter became AHCJ special projects director in 2008 after serving six years as the database library director for Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. In 2018, he became AHCJ’s director of education. He takes a lead role in content planning for national conferences and workshops, and for AHCJ’s growing array of national fellowship programs. At IRE and NICAR, he conducted and directed data analysis for broadcast and print investigative projects, served as lead instructor for computer-assisted reporting boot camps, and provided journalism training across the United States and overseas. He has served as a CAR instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Previously, he worked 20 years as an award-winning newspaper journalist, served as adjunct college faculty, and co-created and hosted a weekly radio program. His last newspaper job was at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where he served as CAR specialist, combining traditional investigative reporting techniques with advanced data analysis tools.
Len Bruzzese, senior adviser, AHCJ
Bruzzese is the new senior adviser for AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He assumed the consulting role after 15 years as executive director of the organization. Bruzzese, a founding staff member of USA Today, spent 20 years in daily journalism before entering the nonprofit and academic worlds. He served as a Missouri School of Journalism professor for 22 years, while also working as deputy director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and then AHCJ’s executive director. He is co-author of “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook,” (fourth edition), and has edited 15 reporter beat books focused on different reporting topics of use to daily journalists. He has won several newspaper and magazine editing awards and was named Outstanding Alumnus in Journalism by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Joseph Burns (@jburns18), Insurance
Burns provides resources for AHCJ members to cover the complex and changing landscape of health insurance through blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other resources.
An independent journalist, Burns has been covering health care since 1991 and writes frequently about health policy and the business of health care for a variety of publications, including Hospitals & Health Networks, Managed Care magazine,Ophthalmology Management, and The Dark Report.
One of the founding editors of the Practice Options newsletters, Burns has edited books on health care and business strategies for Faulkner & Gray and Panel Publishers. From 1991 to 1994, he was editor-in-chief of Business & Health magazine and later was a contributing editor and author of a monthly column for Managed Healthcare Executive magazine. He was the founding editor of The Financial Manager, a magazine for accountants and other business strategists. Burns, based in Massachusetts, began his career as a newspaper reporter in Connecticut.
Clark is compiling resources for journalists to cover the many aspects of patient safety, from diagnosis errors to post-discharge monitoring of patients. She is a MedPage Today contributor and inewsource.org investigative journalist. For most of 27 years, she covered medicine and science for the San Diego Union-Tribune. After taking a buyout in 2008, she became senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media, writing about the Affordable Care Act until 2015. She won the National Institute for Health Care Management’s $10,000 prize for a 2014 magazine article on sepsis and more recently, was honored for a series on a network of diabetes clinics that many researchers and clinicians called a scam.
Carolyn Crist, (@cristcarolyn), Freelance Correspondent
Crist helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author herself, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications in the health, business and education industries. A former newspaper reporter on local crime and government desks in Georgia, Crist still loves the look and feel of traditional print publications and enjoys talking about the future of the media industry, media strategy and social media marketing. Her first book, “The New Science of Narcissism,” is scheduled to be published in 2020. She teaches at the University of Georgia and runs the Freelance Writing Roadmap website and podcast to help others on their journey to freelance freedom.
Katti Gray (@kattigray), 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. She has covered, among other topics, mental health care in prisons and jails, the debate over whether mental illnesses are being over-diagnosed and efforts to persuade persons of color to be less skeptical about seeking counseling and other mental health services. Her work has been published by, among others, The Washington Post, Salon, Reuters, New York Newsday, Los Angeles Times, Health Affairs, Essence, Colorlines, CNN, CBS News, ABC News and AARP. Her writings appear in, among other books, “The Criminalization of Mental Illness” and “Narrative Matters: Writing to Change the Health Care System.”
Tara Haelle (@tarahaelle), Medical Studies
Haelle guides journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enable them to translate the evidence into accurate information that their readers can grasp. Haelle is a freelance journalist and multimedia photographer who has particularly focused on medical studies over the past five years. She particularly specializes in reporting on vaccines, pediatrics, maternal health, obesity, nutrition and mental health. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post, Politico, Slate, NOVA, Wired and Science, and she writes regularly for HealthDay, Frontline Medical Communications, Forbes and her parenting science blog Red Wine & Apple Sauce. She’s co-writing an evidence-based parenting book due in April 2016.
Joanne Kenen (@joannekenen) Health Reform
Kenen, the health editor for Politico, is a Washington-based writer who specializes in health and health policy. She is leading an effort to provide resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of implementing health care reform. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, the Washingtonian, Kaiser Health News, Health Affairs, Miller-McCune, the American Prospect, AARP Magazine and numerous other publications. She was the senior writer for the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, and a Kaiser Media Fellow in a 2006-7 , where she wrote extensively about palliative medicine, hospice, and aging. A longtime Reuters correspondent in New York, Florida/the Caribbean, and Washington, she has covered everything from voodoo festivals to U.S. presidential campaigns and she spent more than a decade covering health policy on Capitol Hill. Thanks to her particularly wakeful second son, she is co-author of a parenting book, “The Sleeplady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight.” Earlier in her career, she did a lot of reporting from Latin America, and co-authored a book on Costa Rica.
Liz Seegert (@lseegert), Aging
Seegert provides resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of aging by writing blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other resources. Her reporting and writing background spans more than 25 years in print, broadcast, and digital media. She covers an array of consumer and professional health topics, including wellness/prevention, chronic disease management, women’s health, aging, health policy and health IT. Seegert’s writing credits include Kaiser Health News, New America Media, Women magazine, Home Care Technology Report, The Atlantic online, Discovery Education, Kidshealth.org, and Healthwise Magazine. Seegert also has published in professional journals, including the Journal of Healthcare Information Management and Practical Diabetology. She is a regular contributor to the HealthCetera, blog and to the award-winning HealthStyles radio show (WBAI/Pacifica), both part of the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College, NYC, where she is also a Senior Fellow.
Bara Vaida (@barav), Infectious Diseases
Vaida is covering the complex and changing topic and helping journalists recognize emerging stories, understand the science of diseases, as well as prevention and cures. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years and a freelancer since 2011. She has worked for the National Journal, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg News and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. Vaida has written extensively about health care policy and the Affordable Care Act as a contributing writer with Kaiser Health News. Her stories on the business and legal issues raised by health reform, as well as special interest influence on health care policy, have been published in the McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Politico, and the Washington Post. She wrote an in-depth report for CQ Researcher titled “Pandemic Threat: Is the world prepared for the next outbreak?”
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