Membership selects new board members for 2021-22

About Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, and an assistant professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Smiley comes to AHCJ from a sports broadcasting background, including nearly a decade at the Golf Channel/NBC Sports and a decade at ESPN, where he won an Emmy.

Christine Herman, health reporter at Illinois Public Media, and Sebastián Martínez Valdivia, public health reporter at KBIA and adjunct instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism, join four incumbents on the Association of Health Care Journalists’ 2021-22 board of directors.

Incumbents starting a new term include Marlene Harris-Taylor, managing producer at NPR/PBS affiliate ideastream; Jeanne Erdmann, a Missouri-based freelancer; Felice Freyer, health reporter at The Boston Globe; and Gideon Gil, managing editor at STAT.

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New tip sheet looks at a key cause of heart problems

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.

Image: Yale Rosen via Flickr

Image: Yale Rosen via Flickr

While deaths from COVID-19 have naturally been a major focus over the past 18 months, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a significant and growing problem. Even during the pandemic, heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2020. More than 868,000 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year. That’s one-third of all deaths.

Nearly a quarter of men (23%) and 14% of women between ages 60 and 79 have some type of heart disease and millions more are at risk due to hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, family history, or other risk factors.

The pandemic may have even worsened rates of CVD, as many people avoided or delayed routine health care and management of chronic conditions. For those over 80, the rate of CVD jumps to 36% for men and 21% for women. As the population of older adults in the U.S. increases to a projected 22% in 2050, heart disease will continue to impact mortality and morbidity rates. So it makes sense to become familiar with one of the leading types of heart disease, atherosclerosis. Continue reading

In new book, award-winning journalist offers strategies for pushing back against high health care costs

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.

Marshall Allen

Marshall Allen (Photo by James Carbone)

One of the themes in journalist Marshall Allen’s book is that few American leaders — neither politicians nor the chief executives of American companies — have been willing to fight back against high and rising health care costs. Therefore, the work of taking on the medical industry and health insurers falls to consumers, writes Allen, an award-winning investigative journalist for ProPublica.

His book, Never Pay the First Bill. And Other Ways to Fight the Health Care System and Win, came out June 22 from Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. Continue reading

A July 4 appeal to President Biden: Let the sun shine in!

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

AHCJ has called on President Biden to honor Independence Day by turning his attention to improving government transparency, “a cornerstone of democracy.”

In a letter sent Tuesday, AHCJ President Ivan Oransky points out that “health care reporters, especially, must have access to complete and accurate facts because what we write influences life-and-death choices that people make.”

The statement praises Biden’s cordial relationship with the media and open coronavirus briefings earlier this year but adds: “Our members tell us that getting information from the federal government remains one of their biggest challenges.” Continue reading

New tip sheet offers solid advice for covering hospital ransomware attacks

About Karen Blum

Karen Blum is AHCJ’s core topic leader on health IT. An independent journalist in the Baltimore area, she has written health IT stories for publications such as Pharmacy Practice News, Clinical Oncology News, Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News, General Surgery News and Infectious Disease Special Edition.

Paul Sisson

Paul Sisson

San Diego Union-Tribune health care reporter Paul Sisson was working on a home improvement project on a Sunday in early May when he received an urgent call from one of his editors. Scripps Health, the area’s second-largest health system in patient discharges, had announced that a cyberattack was forcing the shutdown of all computer systems in its four major hospitals, and the news desk needed help covering the issue. Sisson, an AHCJ member, jumped in, and ended up working until midnight.

Sisson said the typical email channels he used to contact the health system’s public affairs officers, its CEO and other sources were offline, and the hospital was limited in what it could confirm, forcing him to call on sources and skills cultivated during some 20 years of reporting. Despite Sisson’s experience, it was his first time covering a ransomware attack. He has compiled the lessons learned into a new tip sheet, which has been added to the Health IT Core Topic section of AHCJ’s website. Continue reading