Category Archives: Covering medical studies

Tip sheet on covering alcohol highlights do’s, don’ts and story ideas

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: Casey Clough via Flickr

Every day, stories about the U.S. opioid epidemic appear in daily newsfeeds, and rightly so: they are responsible for two out of every three drug overdoses in the country.

But there’s another drug not included in the usual drug overdose stats which kills almost twice as many people a year as opioids — alcohol. And yet, a casual perusal of the daily headlines usually turns up as many fun or fluff stories about alcohol as ones that suggest the risks and harms of drinking. Continue reading

Studies can inspire story ideas about unnecessary interventions

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: 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

Using numbers to explain vaccine benefits

Bara Vaida

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

Photo: Sanofi Pasteur via Flickr

Do you wrestle with ways to illustrate numbers when writing about vaccines?

Dr. Gretchen LaSalle, a family physician in Spokane, Wash., recently offered some ways to do this effectively in a blog post called Vaccine Data: Do the Math.

LaSalle skillfully highlights two examples of how numbers can be used. In one example, related to flu figures, she suggests how real-life context can make the risks of the flu more obvious. In another example, related to measles data, she underscores how numbers can be used to mislead. Continue reading

Latest update to federal preventive services site benefits users

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.

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

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.

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

Year-end wrap-up: What your colleagues are reading

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.

Fireworks for the new yearWe’re closing in on the end of the year and the inevitable annual lists. We thought this would be a good time to review the blog posts written this year that got the most views. It turns out they cover a wide swath of topics in health care, from careful use of language and covering studies to vaccines and caring for our aging population.

Have a look for yourself: Continue reading