Survey: Lack of access to public health experts hinders COVID-19 reporting

Felice J. Freyer

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.

Chart: AHCJ Right to Know Committee Source: “Covering Covid” Survey | Fall 2020See more graphics of survey results below.

Reporters covering the COVID-19 pandemic have often been unable to speak directly with public health experts, hindering access to complete and accurate information, according to results of AHCJ’s “Covering Covid” survey.

Nearly half of respondents reported that “always,” “most of the time” or “about half the time” they had been blocked from speaking with public health experts. More than half said that press briefings in their area have been led by politicians rather than health experts, and those briefings often failed to answer critical questions. Continue reading

While still an expensive therapy, doctors see promise in harnessing a patient’s immune system to fight cancer

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.

Electron micrograph of two cytotoxic T cells (red) attacking an oral squamous cancer cell (white), part of a natural immune response.

Photo: NIH Image Gallery via FlickrElectron micrograph of two cytotoxic T cells (red) attacking an oral squamous cancer cell (white), part of a natural immune response.

If you write anything about cancer treatment, it’s nearly impossible to avoid writing about immunotherapy. But reporting on immunotherapy can quickly become complex, confusing and overwhelming. A new AHCJ tip sheet on cancer immunotherapy can help you to report effectively and appropriately on the topic.

The therapy is exactly what it sounds like. Cancer immunotherapy works to recruit the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer instead of using chemotherapy to kill cancer cells directly. Continue reading

Super bug threat potential rising with COVID-19

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: Naoki Takano via Flickr

If you are looking for an undercovered story during this pandemic, take a look at the continued threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

There isn’t a lot of data out there, but scientists are watching for signs that COVID-19 patients are being overtreated with antibiotics, which could lead to a surge in super bugs – the term for bacteria and fungus that are resistant to most, if not all, antibiotics.

Continue reading

New resource can help you assess hazards and risks and odds ratios

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.

Stock art of a Cesarean procedure

Photo: Enrique Saldivar via Flickr

Over the years, I’ve presented on reporting medical research findings. Some of the most common questions I get are about writing the findings using accessible language that an average person can understand. It’s particularly difficult when the outcome is reported in units like standard deviations, but reporting hazard ratios and odds ratios can be confusing as well, especially for those who only occasionally write about medical studies.

A new resource from the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University in the UK can help you make sense of those findings and even provide the language and graphics to help your audience understand the results. RealRisk is the brainchild of professor David Spiegelhalter, the center’s chair, a statistician and author of The Art of Statistics, and Executive Director Alexandra Freeman, who told me more about the tool. Continue reading

Provider groups closely monitor Supreme Court case on pharmacy benefit managers

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 joseph@healthjournalism.org.

The U.S. Supreme Court this month heard oral arguments in the case of Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association. At issue is the right of states to regulate pharmacy benefit management (PBMs) companies, which employers and health plans hire as middlemen to manage their prescription benefit programs for workers and other plan members.

During oral arguments on Oct. 6, several justices asked about the burden that health plans encounter when PBM regulations differ from one state to another, as Rachel Cohrs reported for Modern Healthcare. Continue reading

Use analogies to provide perspective for tricky numbers ― such as COVID-19 fatality rates

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: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dayland/2434961250/">Dayland Shannon</a> via Flickr

Photo: Dayland Shannon via Flickr

It’s no secret that humans are horrible at comprehending and estimating risk, especially when it comes to abstract numbers. It’s one reason (of several) that people fear encountering sharks at the beach more than the undertows that can drown them.

Misperceptions of risk have become an even more urgent life-or-death issue during the pandemic as a substantial number of people attempt to downplay the fatality rate. Continue reading