Category Archives: Covering medical studies

Breakthrough research reveals parachutes don’t prevent death when jumping from a plane

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: David Stillman via Flickr

It’s been 15 years since BMJ published the most rigorous type of study there is — a systematic review of randomized controlled trials — to assess the evidence for using a parachute to prevent death and major injury when jumping from a plane. RCTs are considered the gold standard in research, and systematic reviews claim the top spot of the evidence pyramid.

As those familiar with this now-famous study know, the authors of that 2003 Christmas issue study found no RCTs testing of the safety of jumping from an airplane with a parachute. Continue reading

AHCJ unveils fellowships on women’s health

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 and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health announced they will collaborate this year to present the first Fellowships on Women’s Health.

The program will allow a small group of journalists to spend several days in Washington, D.C., focused on increasing their understanding of and ability to report more deeply on health issues that are often unique to women or require a different approach.

“We are happy to get a chance to work with the Office on Women’s Health on this new program,” said Len Bruzzese, AHCJ’s executive director. “Along with a chance to dive into these important topics, our fellows will be exposed to reliable sources they can call upon later, develop skills for tapping into trustworthy source material when doing their own research and come away with lots of story ideas worth pursuing.”

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VA surgery database explanation available for medical research reporting

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: U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr

Surgery research can become complex very quickly: Not only are there the underlying conditions and demographics of each patient to consider, but also different characteristics particular to the procedure itself, the circumstances of the procedure, the institution and the providers doing the procedure.

If you frequently report on surgery studies, you may have covered a study that used data from the Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (VASQIP).

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Roxane Gay’s ‘Hunger’ a worthy, perhaps necessary, read for medical journalists

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.

Content note: This blog post mentions sexual assault.

I read (and write) nonfiction all day long, so most of my me-time pleasure reading is limited to fiction. I recently made an exception on a friend’s recommendation and listened to the audiobook of Roxane Gay’s “Hunger,” as read by the author (which was important and relevant given its content).

It was not an easy book to listen to, but I’m so glad that I did — both personally and for my work as a journalist. I think it’s a book every health journalist ought to consider reading if they are able. (My reason for saying “if they are able” will become apparent shortly.) Continue reading

Be cautious, skeptical with comprehensive reviews of evidence

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: nekrum via Flickr

I recently was assessing a lengthy review of the evidence on environmental exposures and breast cancer risk, and as I read, red flags started popping up. While I may not know the evidence base in this area extremely well, I knew it well enough to recognize that the authors were making statements I was pretty sure were not supported by the evidence — or at least not to the extent the review suggested. Continue reading

Get ready to cover the coming tide of clinical research preprints

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 bread and butter of medical research reporting traditionally has been coverage of peer-reviewed studies. However, some new kids are threatening to elbow their way into the conversation and reporters should be prepared.

Preprints aren’t exactly new to scientific research in general, but are a recent phenomenon within biological research and rapidly growing, according to graphs at PrePubMed, a preprint aggregator and indexer similar to but unaffiliated with PubMed. Preprints also are making their way into medical/clinical research. Continue reading