Category Archives: Europe

Apply for fellowship to compare health systems in U.S., Europe

The Association of Health Care Journalists is accepting applications for the second class of AHCJ International Health Study Fellowships.

The fellowships are intended to help veteran U.S.-based journalists compare elements of the U.S. health system with those of similarly developed countries – for this year, in Europe. The program, supported by The Commonwealth Fund, provides for training as well as international field reporting assistance.

The program for mid-career journalists gives print, broadcast and online reporters an opportunity to study how one element of the U.S. health care system is handled in another country and to report on the differences. Fellows will be able to interview patients, health care providers and policymakers both in the United States and abroad.

Continue reading 


Experts: Care coordination, medical homes key to tackling global aging issues

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

Photo: shaindlin via Flickr

An aging population isn’t just a challenge for providers and policymakers in the U.S. – it’s an issue most nations contend with. Experts participating in last week’s webinar from The Commonwealth Fund, Health and Health Care Among Older Adults in 11 Countries, confirm that finding the right balance between clinical and social services, cost-effectiveness and promoting aging in place is tricky, no matter what health system is in place.

The webinar featured key findings from The Commonwealth Fund’s latest International Health Policy Survey, which examined consumer opinions of health systems and care delivery. Experts from France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. provided perspective on the issues. This previous blog post summarizes survey results. Continue reading

In global struggle to care for aging populations, plenty of room for improvement

Photo: Chester Paul Sgroi via Flickr

Photo: Chester Paul Sgroi via Flickr

Compared with other industrialized nations, patients age 65 or older in the U.S. are generally in poorer overall health and have more challenges paying out-of-pocket expenses than their counterparts in other industrialized nations, according to a new study in the November 2014 issue of Health Affairs. (Remember, AHCJ members get free access to Health Affairs.)

Older adults in 11 nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States – were asked by telephone about their health and health care delivery. Among the 15,617 adults, age 65 or older, who participated in the 2014 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults, 20 percent of respondents in every country except France reported problems with care coordination. Access to primary care was most challenging in Canada, the U.S., and Sweden. Continue reading

Cultural perceptions of aging affect health status, caregiving

Images by Judy Baxter, NCVO and Steven Gray via Flickr.

Images by Judy Baxter, NCVO and Steven Gray via Flickr.

A new study out of the United Kingdom reinforces the influence that culture and societal attitudes can have on the health status of older adults. Psychologists from the University of Kent used data from the European Social Survey to ask respondents, all age 70 or older, to self-rate their health.

In countries where old age is thought of as signifying low status, participants who identified themselves as ‘old’ felt worse about their own health. The opposite was true in places where older people have a perception of higher social status. The researchers concluded that elevating perceived social status of older people would reduce negative connotations associated with old age and the negative impact on how healthy people felt.

The value different societies place on the elderly has a lot to with how they are cared for later in life, evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond explained in a recent TED talk. These effects in turn, influence public policy for global long-term services and supports. The International Federation of Social Workers recently noted, “Although older adults serve as essential resources to their communities, they face a great risk of marginalization.” Continue reading

What reporters need to know about side effects and drug studies

Recently, Dr. Ben Goldacre (@bengoldacre), a prominent critic of drug studies, wanted to find out how often side effects reported by users of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins were genuinely caused by the medications.

The study he co-authored concluded that most reported side effects of statins aren’t often due to the drugs themselves, but to other causes. The study generated front-page headlines in the U.K., with an article in The Telegraph declaring, “Statins have virtually no side effects, study finds.”

Outcry ensued. Patients who experienced side effects on statins begged to differ, and Goldacre’s fans wondered if he had suddenly gone soft on pharmaceutical companies.

In response, Goldacre penned a nuanced explanation of the study findings, explaining* that its conclusions were flawed because it was based on incomplete data.

The statin study controversy aside, his blog post makes some key points about how side effects are reported in medical journals that are helpful for health reporters to keep in mind when covering the downsides of new drugs. I’ve boiled some important points down and included them in this tip sheet for AHCJ members.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post used the word “admitting.”