Author Archives: Kris Hickman

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About Kris Hickman

Kris Hickman (@the_index_case) is a graduate research assistant for AHCJ, pursuing a master’s degree in public health. She has a bachelor's degree in anthropology, with a minor in journalism, from the University of Missouri. She spent two years in Zambia as an HIV/AIDS community education volunteer in the Peace Corps. She aspires to be an epidemiologist and science writer.

ZIP code vs. genetic code: How to cover health inequality #ahcj15

Poverty is a poignant reality – and an overwhelming one. If you’re a reporter, you might struggle to find the story in health inequality.  But at Health Journalism 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif., panelists shed some light on the health disparity between high and low incomes – and who it hurts.

Nearby Silicon Valley has massive income inequality, and panelists from Northern California gave attendees some local perspective. The panel, moderated by independent journalist Sheree Crute, explored how wealth influences health, as well as how to provide – and cover – health care in an impoverished community.

Luisa Buada, R.N., M.P.H., chief executive officer, Ravenswood Family Health Center, said the top earners in Silicon Valley can make $3,500 a week and the mean cost of a home is $855,000, but 86 percent of patients in her clinic are at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL).

“We’re living in a place of extraordinary poverty surrounded by extraordinary wealth,” Buada said at the April 25 panel. She described “another kind of homelessness,” in which low-income families are priced out of the astronomically expensive Silicon Valley. This creates a barrier to health care for those people, she said. Continue reading

Investigating the health impacts of fracking

Pia Christensen/AHCJ

Pia Christensen/AHCJ

The fracking controversy has been high profile in recent years, and tempers are short on all sides of the subject. Some groups see natural gas and the process used to extract it – hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – as a boon to energy production in the U.S., while others see it as a pernicious threat to people and the environment.

As shown in this New York Times interactive infographic, fracking (sometimes called “unconventional gas drilling”) is a complicated process. It involves high-pressure injection of fluids into natural gas reserves that lie thousands of feet underground, trapped in layers of shale. In addition, there’s a landslide of conflicting information and anecdotal evidence.

So, as a reporter, how do you sift through the various interests and pull out a story that is relevant to your community?

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Reporters use fellowships to take in-depth look at health care issues

Last year, AHCJ awarded five Reporting Fellowships on Health Care Performance and the fellows produced a rich variety of projects on the health care landscape, investigating little-known stories such as state Medicaid models and the cancer care migration.

We’re highlighting each fellow and their accomplishments. Continue reading

Pew releases survey on interaction between scientists, public

On Sunday, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey on the interaction between scientists, the media and the public. The survey revealed how scientists engage with the public, and how different demographics view scientific issues.

Image by  Andrew Huff via flickr.

Image by Andrew Huff via flickr.

Pew released the report in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the findings were presented at the AAAS 2015 Annual Meeting on Sunday. The report included feedback from 3,784 AAAS scientists, and it is the second in a series of surveys canvassing both scientists and the American public on the interface of scientific data and public understanding.

“How Scientists Engage the Public,” reveals that most scientists – 87 percent – feel they should participate in the public policy process and in relevant debates about science and technology. Not surprisingly, almost all of them said they engaged on some level with journalists or members of the public.

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AHCJ award-winner’s work foretold N.Y. moratorium on certain supplements

Image by  Health Gauge via flickr.

Image by Health Gauge via flickr.

AHCJ members likely weren’t too surprised on Feb. 3, when the New York Office of the Attorney General ordered four major companies to stop selling certain herbal supplements, because in 2013, USA Today reporter Alison Young won an Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism for investigating the lucrative and shadowy world of dietary supplements.

Research in New York showed many products did not contain any of the advertised ingredients, and in the series “Supplement Shell Game,” Young showed that some drugs – and their makers – can be downright dangerous. Even worse, industry players often clash with regulators, and many have criminal backgrounds.

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