Category Archives: Covering medical studies

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

Better understanding of ‘mouth microbes’ may improve oral health treatments

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: A.Currell via Flickr

An estimated 700 species of microbes thrive within the unique ecological niches found within the human mouth, including the hard surfaces of the teeth, soft linings of cheeks and pockets of the gums.

They live in complex communities, and when healthy, they co-exist in an intricate balance. But sometimes that equilibrium gets upset. Continue reading

Identity-first vs. person-first language is an important distinction

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. Army IMCOM via Flickr

Freelance journalist Cassandra Willyard recently asked me on Twitter about resources on the use of appropriate, respectful language when it comes to how we identify the people who are living with various conditions or disabilities.

It was in response to an excellent question by biomedical research writer Kim Krieger about the acceptability of referring to someone with a condition as a descriptor, such as “epileptic child” or “diabetic adults.” Those constructions are called “identity-first” language, as opposed to “person-first” language where the person literally comes first: “children with epilepsy” and “adults with diabetes.” Continue reading

Reporter takes deep dive into alternative Alzheimer’s therapy

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Joy Weinberg via Flickr

There’s no doubt that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is devastating for both the person who receives it and for their family.

Although it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., affecting nearly 6 million people, finding a cure or even a long-term treatment has proven elusive. Most drugs never make it out of Phase I or II trials. Continue reading

New data resource on opioids available in AHCJ’s medical studies topic area

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.

Deaths from drug overdose in 2017 alone exceeded the total number of Americans who died during the entire Vietnam War, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. The majority of those, of course, were opioids.

It’s virtually impossible to report on health today and not cover the opioid epidemic, whether in-depth, occasionally or tangentially. That’s particularly true in areas hit hardest by opioid use and overdoses, such as Appalachia (Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia), Maryland/D.C., and New England (Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts). Continue reading