Category Archives: Infectious diseases

U.S. vaccine safety system needs greater visibility, webcast panelists say

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: SELF MAGAZINE VIA FLICKR

As state legislators have grappled with policies to address vaccine hesitancy, public health officials and journalists could do more to emphasize that the United States has a well-established and effective vaccine safety surveillance system, policy experts told AHCJ members during a Nov. 21 webcast.

The U.S. engages several agencies and organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the National Academy of Medicine, plus eight health care systems and seven academic hospitals in monitoring vaccine safety. Continue reading

Deregulation of pork production highlights need to cover food safety

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: Anne Akers via Flkr

In late September 2019, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized rules to deregulate the safety inspection process in pork production and to increase the slaughter of animals, despite the opposition of consumer advocates and several former agency officials.

The new rules allow company employees, rather than USDA inspectors, to determine which parts of meat with defects can be removed from the slaughter process. Companies, instead of USDA inspectors, also will be allowed to determine slaughter speeds, based on their ability to prevent fecal contamination. Continue reading

Can agencies stop employees from talking to media? Brechner Center says no 

Madeline Laguaite

About Madeline Laguaite

Madeline Laguaite (@MLaguaite) is pursuing her master’s degree in health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia. Her area of interest is stories about LGBTQ health and mental health.

Public employees have the right to speak to the press without going through the boss, but workplace gag orders continue to violate their freedom of speech, says a report from The Brechner Center for Freedom of Information, a nonprofit educational center.

The findings could have particular implications for health care journalists, the center’s director says.

Federal, state or local agencies often impose policies that restrict an employee’s ability to speak with reporters. In a report released in October that examines employees’ First Amendment rights, the center urges news organizations to challenge those rules. Continue reading

Former reporter offers new angles for covering vaccines, public health crises

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: Self Magazine via Flickr

Health reporters looking for another angle on covering vaccine debates should consider digging into the legal challenges public health officials face in considering quarantines and legislative measures prodding people to vaccinate their children, says Doug Levy, a former USA Today health journalist and author of the book “The Communications Golden Hour: The Essential Guide to Public Information When Every Minute Counts.”

Levy spent years in the trenches as a member of the media, and then as a communications leader for two large health systems.  He thinks journalists are missing the boat if they keep focusing stories just on people’s concerns about the safety of vaccines. Continue reading

AHCJ joins groups urging Congress to address communication between journalists and federal agencies

Felice J. Freyer

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

The Association of Health Care Journalists has joined the Society of Professional Journalists and 25 other journalism and open government groups in urging every member of Congress to support unimpeded communication with journalists for all federal employees.

“It is essential to public welfare and democracy that this issue is addressed. Not allowing experts to speak freely to reporters is authoritarian and keeps sources from explaining a variety of things that are the public’s business,” the groups say in a letter sent to Congress members today.

“This ‘Censorship by PIO’ works in tandem with other assaults on free speech including restrictions on public records, threats and physical assaults on reporters, prosecution of whistleblowers and threats of prosecution against reporters.”

Many groups in the coalition of organizations have been working for several years to spark changes in the restrictions put on federal employees and the lack of freedom to speak to journalists. For more than a decade, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee has pressed federal officials to improve journalists’ access to federal experts.

Continue reading 

Getting to the truth when covering measles outbreak

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: CDC/PHIL

A basic tenant in reporting is that there are two sides to a story, but in public health, that may not always be the case, says Melba Newsome, a Charlotte, N.C.-based freelance health care journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, O magazine, Time, and other publications.

Newsome was confronted with this challenge when writing an in-depth story for CQ Researcher on the recent measles outbreak, and the story behind how the contagious disease has made a come back in the era of modern medicine. Continue reading