Author Archives: Tara Haelle

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.

Studies can inspire story ideas about unnecessary interventions

Photo: Tracy Ann C. Ball via Flickr

It’s well recognized that health care costs more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. There are myriad of complex reasons, but one aspect of health care costs that often gets lost in the conversation is how much Americans are paying for services they don’t need. Overuse of antibiotics is an often go-to example of this, but it happens with screening tests as well, especially when guidelines aren’t clear or are frequently evolving.

A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine highlighted an excellent example of patients receiving interventions they don’t need, cost money and can cause harm. Studies like these are worth reporting on their own, but also can inspire larger stories that go deeper or look more broadly at a particular field, geographic region or population of patients. (Disclosure: I reported on this particular study for a news publication.) Continue reading

Latest update to federal preventive services site benefits users

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has made changes to the way they present their recommendations in hopes of making them more user-friendly for physicians. The result also is clearer and easier to follow for journalists and consumers too.

The changes, outlined in the September issue of JAMA, include better use plain language, making the recommendations more easily scannable and emphasizing top-line recommendations without repetitive or marginally relevant information. You still can get the nitty-gritty details of a recommendation and supporting evidence from the site, but for those needing a quick summary, it’s now easier to find what you need. Continue reading

Award-winning genetics reporter shares her process

Tina Saey

Tina Hesman Saey

Sometimes exploring a topic requires more than one story … or three … and sometimes it involves a bit of personal investment. Such was the case for a multi-part series Tina Hesman Saey wrote on consumer DNA testing for Science News.

The investigation took months and paid off in a richly reported, in-depth story that helps readers understand what DNA tests can — and can’t — tell them with an intimacy rarely found in science reporting. Continue reading

New tip sheet helps you ‘background like a boss’

Photo: Karina Smigla-Bobinski via Flickr

In late January, Kate Howard, managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, conducted one of the most important webinars for any journalist — green or seasoned — to watch: “Perfecting the 15-minute background check – for all sources.” How important is it? Well, she presents her tips every single year at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference, teaching attendees how to “background like a boss,” and the room is packed every time. Continue reading

Inequality in corresponding authors means reporters need to balance the scales

The first person that a health reporter nearly always reaches out to when writing about a medical study is the study’s corresponding author. That person – often but not always the lead author as well – is the officially designated contact person for the research. Reporters may ultimately end up interviewing a different author, or several of them, but the corresponding author holds a lot of power as the formally designated first contact.

It’s probably no surprise that (at least when it comes to phase 3 cancer trials) that the lead author is a man four times out of five. Continue reading

Research praising red meat is like … red meat for the masses: These studies need extra scrutiny

Photo: Mitchell Gerskup via Flickr

“Too much red meat can cause cancer.” It’s a depressing statement for the bacon and beef lovers out there, but it’s a part of nearly every major medical organization’s evidence-based guidelines for several years.

In fact, as I was covering the North American Menopause Society’s annual meeting last weekend, the session on lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer specifically included limiting consumption of red meat and processed meats as one of the 10 recommendations for reducing cancer risk from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund. Continue reading