New tip sheet addresses uptick in Lyme disease cases

Photo by Erik Karits via unsplash.com.

Lyme disease, caused by bacteria carried by black-legged ticks, is more common than previously understood and is on the rise.

AHCJ’s new tip sheet will aid in your reporting on this illness and other tick-borne diseases.

According to a new meta-analysis study published in the June 2022 issue of BMJ Global Health, about 14% of the world’s population likely has had Lyme disease. The analysis of antibodies in laboratory blood samples taken between January 1984 and December 2021 revealed that about 20.7% of people in central Europe, 15.9% in East Asia, and 13.5% and 9% in North America had been infected with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease. 

“There are more tick-borne disease cases every year,” said John Aucott, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Lyme Disease Clinical Research Center, during a June 8 AHCJ webcast. “This is an insidious epidemic. It hasn’t been as dramatic as COVID-19, so it has crept up on us.”

Ticks are emerging earlier from winter hibernation and staying active longer because of climate and deforestation, according to public health experts. As a result, Americans’ risk of infection from pathogens carried by the outdoor pests is rising. According to the CDC, the total number of tick-borne diseases reported to the agency rose by 125% to 50,865 in 2019 from 22,527 in 2004.

Continue reading

Some communities may be unprepared for July launch of 988 hotline

Photo courtesy of SAMHSA.

A new report from RAND Corp. suggests many communities may not be prepared to fully implement the vision of the 988 hotline. RAND recently released the results of its survey of 180 behavioral health professionals. The survey, conducted from Feb. 8 to March 17, was intended to assess how well communities have prepared for the 988 implementation. 

Only 16% of survey participants reported that their agency had established a budget for the transition and long-term support of the 988 hotline. More than half —51% — of survey participants said they had not been involved in the development of a strategic plan related to the launch.

“Our findings have confirmed what many advocates and experts feared: communities throughout the U.S. have not had the time or resources to adequately prepare for the debut of the 988 hotline number,” said Ryan McBain, co-lead of the research project and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization, in a statement.

Journalists can find interesting stories by investigating how well their states and local agencies have prepared for the official July 16 launch date for the new three-digit mental health emergency hotline (988).

Continue reading

Registration open for Rural Health Workshop 2022

Photo by Kelly L via pexels.

What does it take to keep a rural hospital open in the state with the highest rural hospital closure rate in the country?

Find out at AHCJ’s Rural Health Workshop 2022, which will be held July 14 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Registration is open. This year marks the first in-person rural health workshop since 2019.

The free, one-day workshop, presented by AHCJ and the Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, will give journalists an opportunity to hear from and connect with health care and policy experts and researchers who focus on rural health. Stephanie Boynton, vice president and chief executive officer, Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital and Erlanger Bledsoe Hospital, will talk about how a hospital just days away from closing its doors found a path to survival and what that has meant to a community.

With 80% of rural America now described as a “health care desert,” the urgency of providing health care access for people who live outside urban areas has never been greater.

Continue reading

New must-read book for reporters tackles ageism

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D. (Photo courtesy of the Virginia Commonwealth University)

We are all guilty of ageism, even those of us who report on or study aging for a living. It’s everywhere — in advertising, movies, the workplace, health care settings, and family and social relationships. However, until we’re aware and willing to acknowledge age bias, we can’t overcome it as a society.

That’s why I was so eager to read Ageism Unmasked by Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University department of gerontology and executive director of the Virginia Center on Aging. This well-researched and written book explores our exposure to the “old is bad, young is good” trope from childhood.

Gendron guides readers on how to recognize our implicit and explicit biases and reframes aging as a positive, rather than a negative experience. She also discusses how we can treat everyone more considerately, regardless of age.

In this Q&A, Gendron shares what journalists should keep in mind when reporting on aging concerns. This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.

Continue reading

Impact of expected Roe v. Wade reversal on telehealth and femtech providers

Photo by Meruyert Gonullu via pexels.

A predicted overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade case by the U.S. Supreme Court may force some people of childbearing age to turn to telehealth and femtech (technologies such as mobile apps or other products related to women’s health and wellness) for reproductive care, potentially crossing state lines to use these options.

There are many health IT angles to pursue within this larger story, including what telehealth and femtech providers are doing about safeguarding their patients’ and consumers’ data. Journalists can also find out what users of these services are concerned about, what advocacy organizations are promoting to protect consumers, and some downstream effects regarding women’s health and data collection.

Telehealth and reproductive health care

The overturning of Roe v. Wade could lead to a surge in visits to telehealth clinics prescribing abortion medications online, STAT’s Health Tech newsletter reported in its May 5 issue. However, the clinics would only be able to operate in states where abortion — and telemedicine prescriptions for the medication — remain legal — meaning patients in more restrictive states would have to cross state lines to access virtual care.

Continue reading