Professor helps journalists report on assessing COVID-19 transmission risks

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: New York National Guard via Flickr

Scientists now have a much better idea of how people become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

But public health guidelines for how to prevent spread have been confusing. There have been mixed messages provided by federal, state and local government leaders, which has left many people hungry for information about how to assess their risks, as businesses reopen and summer vacation plans are looming.

To help fill the information gap, Dr. Erin Bromage, a University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth associate biology professor who has spent much of his career utilizing infection control measures in his animal research work, created a blog called “COVID-19 Musings.” Continue reading

Pandemic changes, or pauses, state approaches to health coverage

Joanne Kenen

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curates related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on health reform resources and tip sheets at joanne@healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Photo: Yuri Samoilov via Flickr

Before the new coronavirus pandemic, expanding health insurance was a hot topic in the presidential campaign. States were considering a wide range of health coverage policies, including Medicaid expansion, Medicaid block grants, public options, new subsidies and coverage of immigrants.

Much of the state policymaking has been on hold or is phasing in more slowly as the nation’s health system focuses on COVID-19. States are facing enormous financial stresses due both to the pandemic and the subseqent economic crisis. Continue reading

Welcome to AHCJ’s newest members

Len Bruzzese

About Len Bruzzese

Len Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He also is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and served for nearly 20 years in daily journalism.

welcome-matPlease welcome these new professional and student members to AHCJ.

All new members are welcome to stop by this post’s comment section to introduce themselves. Continue reading

Protect readers’ time and bandwidth from unpublished trials

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: Thomas Leuthard via Flickr

Every week for years, I’ve received press releases about studies starting up. This one looking at heart disease, that one about a common cancer, and still another on a rare childhood disease. I’ve written about precisely zero of them. When the public relations person follows up, I’ll explain: “I write primarily about peer-reviewed research. Let me know when it’s published.”

If you write for business, pharma or medical trade publications, there may be times when you write about the initiation of a study. Even then, it’s typically more important to wait until the study is actually underway and there’s something to say about it. And for consumer publications, I can’t think of any reason to talk about an upcoming individual study that hasn’t begun. Continue reading

Is CMS putting older adults at increased risk during the pandemic?

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: Travis Wise via Flickr

As states struggle to contain cases and deaths from COVID-19, nursing homes and other senior care facilities remain epicenters of outbreaks and fatalities. Yet a rule proposed last year by the Trump Administration would allow facilities to cut back on infection prevention measures, according to recent reports in The New York Times and USA Today.

It seems counterintuitive, but CMS still supports this yet-to-be-finalized proposal. Currently, facilities must employ infection prevention specialists at least part time; they receive specialized training to ensure safety protocols are followed. The rule change would allow nursing homes to hire consultants, who are only required to “spend sufficient time” at the facility. CMS says this would reduce regulatory burden while still ensuring quality care. Continue reading

Survey findings on mental health during COVID-19 potentially helpful in reporting

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: Nenad Stojkovic via Flickr

I’ve written already about the mental health toll the COVID-19 pandemic and associated management strategies, such as physical distancing, are having and will have on the population. Then I received a press release from the health information site Healthline that put some numbers to that toll, both from their internal data and from a nationwide survey from the public opinion company YouGov.

Healthline in May launched a special section on mental health during the pandemic that’s full of quick service pieces on managing anxiety, stress, depression, panic attacks and similar experiences during the pandemic. Some of these stories can provide ideas for similar pieces for your publication, or be jumping off places for deeper dives into the medical research on mental health during major crises. Continue reading