Tag Archives: access to information

Guidelines for releasing information in public health crisis still in the works

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

When North Carolina officials recently announced the death of a teenager as a result of the flu but gave out little other information, reporter Rose Hoban, R.N., of North Carolina Public Radio, had a sense of deja vu. Hoban is a member of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, which has dealt with exactly this issue.

Some background:
During the H1N1 pandemic, reporters found a wide variation in what information local and state health officials were disclosing about H1N1 deaths. As a result, representatives of AHCJ, including Hoban, met with health officials representing the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the group agreed on flexible guidelines specifying what information should be released about victims in a public health crisis.

Last week, Hoban filed an update about the issue on her blog with comments from Gene Matthews, who is a senior fellow at the North Carolina Institute of Public Health and was the lead counsel for the CDC for 25 years. She also checked with ASTHO about the status of the draft guidelines and was told, “I don’t think it’s going to disappear, fall into oblivion …”