Studies can inspire story ideas about unnecessary interventions

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: Tracy Ann C. Ball via Flickr

It’s well recognized that health care costs more in the United States than anywhere else in the world. There are myriad of complex reasons, but one aspect of health care costs that often gets lost in the conversation is how much Americans are paying for services they don’t need. Overuse of antibiotics is an often go-to example of this, but it happens with screening tests as well, especially when guidelines aren’t clear or are frequently evolving.

A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine highlighted an excellent example of patients receiving interventions they don’t need, cost money and can cause harm. Studies like these are worth reporting on their own, but also can inspire larger stories that go deeper or look more broadly at a particular field, geographic region or population of patients. (Disclosure: I reported on this particular study for a news publication.) Continue reading

U.S. life expectancy increases slightly, report says

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in, 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: Thomas Cizauskas via Flickr

There was some good news in January’s National Center for Health Statistics data brief: People in the U.S. are living slightly longer thanks to fewer deaths from opioid overdoses and other leading causes such as heart disease and cancer. It’s the first increase in life expectancy since 2014.

However, the U.S. still lags behind other industrialized countries, even though we spend more on health care than anyone else. Average life expectancy for someone born in the U.S. in 2018 is now 78.6 years, up 0.1 percent (about one month) since 2017. It is 80.8 years in other OECD nations, which spend an average of 8.8 percent of GDP on health care, compared to 16.9 percent in the U.S. Continue reading

Dental fear a contributing factor to poor oral health

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at

Photo: Herry Lawford via Flickr

One in 10 American adults has avoided a needed dental visit due to fear, according to federal data.

Some patients panic at the thought of lying prone in the dental chair. Others dread opening the intimate territory of the mouth for inspection and judgment. The one-way conversations, the sharp instruments, the smells and sounds of the dental office can all stir so much anxiety that people delay timely care. Continue reading

These resources can help meet your 2020 freelance business goals

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

Photo: Luke Jones via Flickr

Setting goals, creating a business plan, outlining quarterly objectives — the process may go by different names, but the steps typically are similar. When you run your own freelance business, it’s important to review what you did previously and decide what you want to do next. Early in their careers, freelance writers may set specific goals for marketing, pitching and publishing to reach the income and dream publications they want. With more experience, freelancers may set broader intentions for the year and their next steps forward, which could include writing a book, speaking on stages or building a brand. Continue reading

Social media resources can help keep you on top of coronavirus crisis

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: DIFD via Flickr

The World Health Organization today declared 2019-nCoV a public health emergency of international concern. This is the sixth such designation since 2009; earlier emergencies included the swine flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014 and 2019, polio in 2014 and Zika in 2016.

For ongoing and up-to-date coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak, check out this Twitter list curated by Bara Vaida, AHCJ’s core topic leader on infectious diseases. Continue reading

In 2020, rebates from pharmaceutical companies deserve more scrutiny

Joseph Burns

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

Source: 2018 Janssen U.S. Transparency Report. Reprinted with permission.This illustration from a Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies report shows how drug makers pay rebates across the pharmacy supply chain.

One of the big health care stories of the past few years has been how much money pharmaceutical manufacturers spend on rebates to promote prescription drugs. Pharmaceutical companies pay out rebates to just about every participant in the supply chain.

A report issued last year from the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies (a division of Johnson & Johnson) showed that pharma companies give rebates to those companies that pay for health care (including health insurers, the government, and employers) and to PBMs, hospitals, physician groups, specialty pharmacies, wholesalers, government distributors, and to patients themselves.

Paying rebates to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) helps pharmaceutical companies keep medications on formularies, enticing health care purchasers to buy more drugs. Continue reading