Category Archives: Covering medical studies

How I Did It: A question about alcohol deaths in New Mexico became a multi-part investigation

Ted Alcorn

When journalist Ted Alcorn visited an alcohol detox center in Gallup, New Mexico, he had little idea his reporting on the impact of alcohol on his state would grow into a multi-part, 21,000-words-and-growing series digging into why New Mexico residents die from drinking at much higher rates than those in other states. Alcorn’s remarkable package, Blind Drunk, was published by New Mexico In Depth in July 2022. Alcorn is an AHCJ Health Care Performance fellow and covered this story as a part of the fellowship program. 

A reporter with credits at The New York Times and other national publications who also lectures at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, Alcorn shared with AHCJ how his project came about and how he waded through the enormous amount of research that went into it.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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New tip sheet for journalists covering long COVID

Photo by Mart Production via pexels.

In the coming year, more clues are expected to emerge to help unravel the mystery of long COVID as dozens of global study results are released.

To help you with your coverage of the evolving understanding of long COVID, we have created a tip sheet in a Q&A format to help explain what is known, as of October 2022, about long COVID and to provide resources for covering this topic.

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Promotional “hype” language has increased substantially in NIH grant applications 

Graphic by Tara Haelle

The number of promotional adjectives used to hype proposed research has increased by more than 1300% in successful grant applications to the National Institutes of Health over the past three and a half decades, particularly in hyping the importance and novelty of research, according to a recent study in JAMA Network Open.

The use of “spin,” the authors wrote,” has the potential to undermine the fidelity of scientific reporting,” but the identification of spin in the peer review process is problematic, they add. 

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Understanding the government requirement for open access studies

Graphic by Geyslein, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Journalists who covered medical research during the pandemic know how helpful it was that nearly all COVID-related studies were freely available upon publication. But those who have covered medical research for years also know how unusual that is.

Using medical research in journalism has long involved finding ways past paywalls for journal articles, whether it was accessed through press registration, reaching out to authors, contacting journal publishers, befriending folks with institutional logins or tapping unsanctioned repositories like Sci-Hub.

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How improper aggregation of racial/ethnic groups in research may mask health disparities

Photo via Pixabay.

Lumping Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders together with East, South, and Southeast Asian patients in U.S. medical studies may be obscuring disparities in outcomes, suggests a new study from JAMA Network Open.

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