Category Archives: Conflicts of interest

Nonprofits, tax breaks and getting hospitals to keep people out

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: John Heppolette via Flickr

Kaiser Health News and Capital News Service have been publishing a series called “Baltimore’s Other Divide” – the state of health in a city which has vast disparities in health status, and some of the country’s best known hospitals.

The latest installment, by Jay Hancock, Rachel Bluth and Daniel Trielli, focuses on asthma “hot spots.” Drawing on rich hospital data, they identified the worst places for asthma in the city – ZIP code 21223. People there, like 9-year-old Keyonta Parnell, go the emergency room more often, and call 911 more often. The hospitals know that. But it’s not in their financial interest to fix it. Continue reading

Doctors talk about ethical decisions, surgery on conjoined twins

Gideon Gil

About Gideon Gil

Gideon Gil (@GideonGil) is a managing editor of Stat, treasurer of AHCJ and chair of AHCJ's Finance and Development Committee. He was the health and science editor at The Boston Globe for a decade and a medical reporter and an editor at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., for 19 years, and had a hand in three Pulitzer Prizes.

Photo: Gideon Gil/StatDr. Oscar J. Benavidez (left), Dr. Allan M. Goldstein and other doctors at MassGeneral Hospital for Children used a 3-D model of the twins’ anatomy during surgery to separate them.

The twin girls were joined at the abdomen and pelvis. They had two heads and four arms, but three legs. They had two hearts, but shared a liver, a bladder, and other organs. One was active, the other subdued and growing weaker.

Some 20 hospitals had said they couldn’t help the girls, who had been born nearly two years earlier in a village in Africa. But Dr. Allan M. Goldstein, surgeon-in-chief at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, said yes, they would consider operating to separate the twins. Continue reading

Writing about think tanks and using their research: A cautionary tip sheet

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.

Most reporting on medical research relies on peer-reviewed studies published in medical journals. But independent corporations, nonprofits, advocacy organizations and other institutions conduct their own research. Moreover, they seek media coverage of their findings, usually (albeit not always) to serve their objectives and interests.

One such organization is a think tank, an organization ostensibly aimed at objectively researching and analyzing a particular issue and policy solutions to that issue – but, more often, influenced by an ideological bias that drives their findings. Continue reading

Everything you wanted to know about conflicts of interest (even if you weren’t afraid to ask)

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: Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

The May 2 special issue of JAMA is one to bookmark, because its theme is integral to the work of all journalists: reporting on conflicts of interest (COI). And the best part? The whole thing is free to the public — no paywalls.

As much as covering medical research is making sense of the numbers — statistics, p values, absolute risk, the number needed to treat and the rest — it’s also about good, old-fashioned journalism when it looking at all angles of a story. Continue reading

Medical research coverage often contains too few independent, conflict-free comments

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: Global Panorama via Flickr

Photo: Global Panorama via Flickr

Just one in every six new stories about medical research contained independent comments from someone besides the study authors — and a quarter of them did not have the relevant clinical or academic expertise to be commenting on the research. Further, just over half of those commenters had relevant conflicts of interest, but only half were reported in the news article. Those are the findings of a sobering, though unsurprising, new study that reveals just how much news consumers suffer from a dearth of high-quality reporting on medical research.

In plainer terms, health journalists need to be doing a better job when reporting on medical research. Continue reading