Category Archives: Covering medical studies

Covering a controversial study: How to dig deep on a deadline

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.

From the moment I saw the study — and editorial and editor’s note — among JAMA’s embargoed studies, I knew it would be a doozy. Certain topics arouse controversy simply by their existence, and water fluoridation is very high on that list.

So when I was assigned to write about the JAMA Pediatrics study (Reminder: AHCJ members get free access to the JAMA Network.)  finding a link between prenatal fluoride exposure and reduced IQ in preschoolers, two things went through my mind: One, this is going to be covered horribly by some outlets and likely create unnecessary anxiety among parents, especially pregnant women (who have enough to worry about when it comes to do’s and don’ts). Two, I need to be one of those who gets it right. Continue reading

Fluoridation findings prompt measured response from professional organizations

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Photo by mahalie stackpole via Flickr

As the editors of the prestigious medical journal anticipated, the newly published Canadian study is causing a stir.

The paper, which appears in JAMA Pediatrics links higher fluoride consumption by pregnant women with lower intelligence scores in their offspring. The findings represent the latest foray by researchers into fluoride safety, an emotionally fraught topic in both the U.S. and Canada.

The authors of the paper studied fluoride exposure for 512 mother-child pairs, about 40% of whom lived in fluoridated communities across six Canadian cities. They calculated fluoride levels in local water supplies and fluoride concentrations in the pregnant women’s’ urine.

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Former NLM director helped create AHCJ-NLM Health Journalism Fellowships

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Donald A.B. Lindberg

Donald A.B. Lindberg

Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., 85, the director emeritus of the National Library of Medicine (NLM) within the U.S. National Institutes of Health whose support helped create an important fellowship program with AHCJ, died on Aug. 16 from head injuries after a fall at his home.

Lindberg was instrumental in the creation of the Association of Health Care Journalists-NLM Fellowship program in 2008 and often met with the journalists who were selected as fellows.

Lindberg was NLM’s director for 31 years from 1984-2015. He was the founding director of the White House High Performance Computing and Communications Program from 1992-95. Continue reading

Applications accepted for 2019 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowship

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Association of Health Care Journalists is accepting applications for the 2019 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowships.

AHCJ has teamed up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention once again to present this national fellowship program for journalists. Up to 10 fellows will be selected to study public health issues at CDC’s campuses.

The program – made possible with the support of the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust – will take place Dec. 1-5 in Atlanta.

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Caveats about causality in medical studies linked to more accurate news coverage

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: Jacob via Flickr

It’s a well-worn mantra: Correlation does not equal causation. But even if we know this, is it always accurately and responsibly reflected in our stories and headlines?

It can be simpler and more elegant to say “Vodka causes sexually transmitted infections” in a headline than “Vodka consumption associated with increased risk of sexually transmitted infections.” (Note: This is not a real headline or based on a real study.) But in this made-up example, it’s laughably obvious that vodka itself does not cause STDs. Continue reading

Deciphering contracts: Webcast to cover journalists’ rights, negotiations, insurance and more

Jeanne Erdmann

About Jeanne Erdmann

Jeanne Erdmann is an award-winning health and science writer based in Wentzville, Mo. A member of AHCJ's board of directors, she is the chair of the organization's Freelance Committee. Her work has appeared in Discover, Women’s Health, Aeon, Slate, The Washington Post, Nature, Nature Medicine and other publications. You can follow her at @jeanne_erdmann.

Few moments are more gratifying to a freelancer than a new contract landing in our inbox.

Contracts solidify the hard work and the leap-of-faith that began with a pitch. They begin what could be a long, profitable relationship with a publication, perhaps a dream publication that’s finally taken a pitch. They’re a physical sign that – for another month at least – we can pay off bills, college loans, cover the rent. Continue reading