Ticks — and the diseases they carry — are likely becoming a big story in your area

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 the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: Jonathan Harford via Flickr

Photo: Jonathan Harford via Flickr

The mild winter in the U.S. suggests that it will be a busy year for ticks — just as more Americans are emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disease ecologists told Grist magazine that there is an uptick in people reporting ticks on their pets and themselves throughout the country, raising the risk there will be an increase in Lyme disease and other tick-borne related illnesses in 2021.

“All these people complaining of a horrendous year” with ticks, Rick Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., told Grist. “They’re actually right.” Continue reading

Recent studies examine Rx medication use and fall risk in older adults

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News 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.

Man with cowboy hat walking with a cane

Photo: Adam Cohn via Flickr

Falls are the leading cause of injury and death in older adults. Those with cognitive impairment are two to three times more likely to fall than those who are cognitively intact. We also know that certain medications can increase the risk of falls in older adults. According to researchers at Texas A&M University, those with dementia who regularly took pain medication and those with probable dementia who took pain medication two or more days a week in the prior month were more likely to fall compared to those without dementia, according to the researchers. Continue reading

How they did it: Reporting on junk health insurance plans

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Early in May, ProPublica health care reporter Jenny Deam wrote about the financial ruin that often results when unknowing consumers enroll in short-term health insurance plans. Her article of more than 3,000 words, “He Bought Health Insurance for Emergencies. Then He Fell Into a $33,601 Trap,” is an excellent example for any journalist looking to cover the complex world of health insurance plans that do not comply with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare.

Maya Miller, an engagement reporter with ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, also contributed.

As the article notes, the Trump administration’s efforts to deregulate health insurance led to the proliferation of short-term health plans, boosting health insurers’ profits while leaving patients with unexpected bills. Deam also explained the steps the Biden administration has taken to bolster ACA-compliant plans offered through www.healthcare.gov and the state health insurance marketplaces. We reported on those efforts in February, in March and in April. Continue reading

Court ruling validates speech rights for health workers

About Deborah Schoch

Deborah Schoch (@DeborahSchoch) is a California-based independent journalist whose COVID-19 coverage has appeared in The New York Times and AARP. She is a member of the AHCJ Right-to-Know Committee.

A federal appeals court in Boston has upheld the right of a hospital employee to speak to the media, in a case likely to ripple across the private sector and make it harder for employers to issue blanket gag orders.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, ordered a Maine hospital last month to repudiate a rule that barred employees from answering inquiries from the media or providing information without the “direct involvement” of the Community Relations Department. It also ordered the hospital to reinstate an employee who was fired after writing a letter to the local newspaper that described staff turnover and morale problems. Continue reading

Alzheimer’s drug approved Monday by FDA raises questions for journalists

About Liz Seegert and Tara Haelle

Liz Seegert (@lseegert) is AHCJ’s topic leader on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today and other outlets. Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is medical studies core topic leader, helping journalists translate evidence into accurate information.

Beakers

Photo: Knowing Roger via Flickr

Part two of two parts; the first ran Thursday, June 10.

There’s still a great deal we don’t yet understand about aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm) or its longer-term effects. If early-stage Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed in time for someone to begin taking the drug, are the potential adverse effects cumulative? Could long-term toxicity build up over time? How long might the drug stave off development of the plaque, and how long might it slow down the process of cognitive decline, if at all, and how will clinicians assess its benefit in patients? Continue reading