How to be more effective in communicating risk to readers

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: Sasha You via Flickr

One of the most challenging aspects about reporting on medical research is the need to convey risk in a meaningful way to readers. Human brains are not wired to understand risk in the way we need to understand it in the 21st century. Our brains evolved to assess risks for very different environments and threats than those we face today ― particularly in a time of pandemic. Continue reading

Journalist offers advice on breaking news in the time of COVID-19

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: ChiralJon via FlickrRendering of hydroxychloroquine molecular structure.

The National Institutes of Health last month halted a clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine for use in treating COVID-19 patients. The NIH ended the trial because the antimalarial drug, while safe, was proven to have no benefit to hospitalized patients.

The decision came just three months after President Trump declared the drug a “game-changer” and arranged for the U.S. to purchase 29 million doses to be “immediately available” to the public for treating the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Continue reading

These data resources can help localize studies on medical facility quality control

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: Scott & White Healthcare via Flickr

If you cover medical studies for national publications, you rarely have to worry about localizing it to one particular region. But local and state journalists typically have to go deeper when covering a national study for region-specific publications. A new obesity prevalence study is out? How does that compare to obesity rates in your state? In your county? In your city? In your schools? Continue reading

Study: Low vitamin K associated with higher risk of death

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: Penn State via Flickr

Be like Popeye. Eat your spinach. And kale. And lettuce. That’s the takeaway from a recent multi-ethnic meta-analysis by researchers at Tufts University.

While the study didn’t prove cause and effect, it did show that the risk of death was nearly 20% higher for older adults with low vitamin K levels compared to those whose levels were adequate. The results suggest vitamin K, a nutrient found in leafy greens and vegetable oils, may have protective health benefits as we age, according to the researchers.

The meta-analysis involved nearly 4,000 Americans between the ages of 54 and 76. One-third of the participants were non-white. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) and Tufts Medical Center categorized participants according to their vitamin K blood levels. They then compared the risk of heart disease and risk of death across the categories over approximately 13 years of follow-up. Continue reading

New data source useful when covering health care professionals

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: Deborah Crowe

So much of reporting on medical studies focuses on drugs, treatments, preventive care, health outcomes, risk factors and similar aspects of individual health. It’s easy to forget that there is a whole other area of literature concerned with the people who provide care.

More and more studies are examining burnout and mental health among physicians, nurses and other providers, for example. Health policy often relies on research about workforce trends and shortages. But many of studies only look at the whole nation or a particular region, making difficult to localize the data if you’re not a national reporter. Continue reading

Freelancers, this is the time to diversify our sources

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

Three women sitting together and discussing work

Photo: Fadi Dahabreh on Scopio

After a wave of online conversations unveiled issues with inclusion at some of the nation’s top publications and media companies, freelancers can step up now by thinking more critically about the sources they interview for their stories. Several groups have created databases in recent years to encourage reporters to extend their limited perspectives and typical networks, and now seems like a good time for a reminder and a nudge.

“Inclusive reporting” beefs up your stories with a variety of viewpoints that come from a different race, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle or culture than your own. Plus, a diversity of sources adds credibility, accuracy and context to your work. Continue reading