Tag Archives: AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowships

Reporter recounts fellowship visit to CDC

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.

This is a guest post from Winnie Yu, a freelance journalist based in Voorheesville, N.Y. She was among this year’s class of AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows who spent last week studying public health issues at two Atlanta campuses of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The fellows met with Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.

The fellows met with Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. (Photo: Len Bruzzese/AHCJ)

Life can get lonely when you work as a freelance writer. So it was a real thrill for me last week when I got the chance to attend the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowship and listen to experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discuss the most pressing health issues of our day.

Ten journalists from around the country came to Atlanta to hear presentations on topics as varied as motor vehicle safety, vaccines, patient safety and prescription drug abuse. It was quickly apparent that the CDC is much more than the authority on when to get your vaccines.

We heard from numerous experts, including Mike Bell, M.D., associate director for Infection Control for the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion; William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion; and Ann Albright, Ph.D., R.D., director of the Division of Diabetes Translation for the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. We also enjoyed a brief presentation from the CDC’s director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.

Each day ended with a tour. We saw the CDC’s emergency operations center, walked through the tobacco lab and peered in at scientists probing for foodborne illnesses. We looked at viruses under a microscope, marveled at slides the size of a pinhead (used under an electron microscope) and winced at the amount of nicotine that smokers continue to inhale from cigarettes.

And while I couldn’t get the tour guide to tell us where the United States hides its stockpile of smallpox – Russia has the only other one – I was amazed by the challenges that researchers must endure in order to work in the pathogen labs, including chemical showers and protective suits that preclude regular visits to the bathroom. Not surprisingly, we learned that a calm and even temperament is a requirement for the job.

No doubt, some of the information we already knew: Americans weigh more than ever. Autism is on the rise. Diabetes is a major health issue. But we also learned that polio remains a persistent problem in some parts of the world, tuberculosis still afflicts some segments of our population and the United States takes its role as a world leader seriously when it comes to public health.

It was truly an honor to be part of this fellowship, to get an up-close glimpse of the CDC and to share my time with a great group of journalists who were smart, funny and great dinner companions. I have no doubt the experience will spawn story ideas, beef up our source lists and provide ample background for future articles.  I know it will for me.

Fellows learn about BRFSS data on trends in health

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.

This is a guest post from Lara Salahi, of ABC News. She is one of 11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows visiting the CDC this week.

I’ve been assigned the disease topic, perhaps even given the gist of the headline. And now I’ve got a few good hours to meet my deadline.

cdc-fellows-2010

The 2010 AHCJ-CDC fellows take a break from their busy week in Atlanta. They are: (front row) Raymond Hainer, Health.com / Time Inc.; Meredith Matthews, Current Health Teens magazine/Weekly Reader; Ruby de Luna, KUOW-Seattle Public Radio; Kevin McCarthy, Consumer Reports/Consumers Union; (second row) Margaret Haskell, Bangor Daily News; Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal; Katherine Harmon, Scientific American; (back) Lara Salahi, ABC News; Rong Lin II, Los Angeles Times; Miranda Van Gelder, Martha Stewart Living; and Jori Lewis, freelance journalist & radio producer.

The patient story: compelling.

The expert opinion: piece of cake.

But finding accurate and current data that will pull the story into perspective? Suddenly I can hear the minutes taken from writing ticking away, one hour of research at a time.

Chalk this scenario up on the list of “You know you’re a daily reporter/producer when…” you’re the only one who wishes there were more hours in a workday.

Readers and viewers want to know how common a health issue is in their state, or whether a health trend has increased or decreased over time.

The CDC website is so expansive; it’s hard to tell where to start. But the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS, is a quick link to bookmark. BRFSS publishes annual prevalence and trends data on health issues such as diabetes, health care access, and oral health.

Lina Balluz, acting director of the Division of Behavior Surveillance at the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, walked the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows through finding the analyzed self-reported data from telephone-based questionnaires.

BRFSS is one of the fastest data collection methods analyzed on a given health issue, said Balluz. The system includes national data, stratified by states. It’s one tool that may help add perspective to a story and cut the time spent searching.

Editor’s note: For help finding additional information on the CDC website, we recommend AHCJ’s “Navigating the CDC: A Journalist’s Guide to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web Site.”

Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows:

AHCJ-CDC Fellows learn about diabetes project

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.

Editor’s note: This post, from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows‘ visit to the CDC, originally reported the CDC is close to launching a diabetes project. In fact, the National Diabetes Prevention Program launched in April 2010 and the CDC continues to expand the program, which currently has 28 sites.

The Diabetes Prevention Program clinical trial, according to the CDC, is “designed to bring evidence-based programs for preventing type 2 diabetes to communities. The program supports establishing a network of lifestyle intervention programs for overweight or obese people at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” including dietary changes, coping skills and group support. More information about lifestyle interventions is available from the YMCA and UnitedHealth Group.

More about the visit to the CDC:

Meredith Matthews, of Current Health Teens magazine/Weekly Reader, wrote a blog post wrote about the visit, reporting that the fellows visited the CDC’s emergency operations center, which is monitoring the cholera outbreak in Haiti. They also heard from CDC director Thomas Frieden, M.D., who Matthews says answered all of the fellows questions.

Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows:

CDC: Cholera has spread throughout Haiti

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.

Ron Lin, of the Los Angeles Times, reports that cholera has spread throughout Haiti, according to CDC officials speaking to the CDC-AHCJ Health Journalism Fellows in Atlanta yesterday.

The disease, caused by a bacteria that spreads through tainted drinking water, also is turning up in the Dominican Republic. A Dec. 8 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly report says 91,770 cases have been reported nationwide and 43,243 patients had been hospitalized. More than 2,000 have died.

haiti-aid-workers

At a community training event in Haiti, aid workers demonstrate how to make a rehydration solution for a patient with cholera.
Photo by EDV Media Director via Flickr

The report comes a day after the Associated Press reported that a contingent of U.N. peacekeepers was the likely source of the cholera outbreak, citing a report written by a scientist who was sent by the French government to assist Haitian health officials.

Soldiers who arrived at the U.N. base, upstream from where the first cases of cholera were reported, soon before the cholera outbreak came from Nepal, according to the story.

Dr. Jordan W. Tappero, director of the Health System Reconstruction Office at the CDC’s Center for Global Health, did tell reporters that the CDC did analyze the cholera strain in Haiti and identified it as a strain that is circulating in South Asia.

Lin is one of 11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows visiting the CDC this week. The fellows are attending sessions on epidemiology, global disease prevention efforts, pandemic flu preparedness, climate change, vaccine safety, obesity, autism and have toured the CDC director’s National Emergency Operations Center.

Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows:

Expect developments in screening, treatment for hepatitis C

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.

This is a guest post from Felice J. Freyer, a medical writer at The Providence (R.I.) Journal. Freyer, an AHCJ board member, is one of 11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows visiting the CDC this week.

Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer

One in 30 people born between 1945 and 1965 – the Baby Boom generation – suffer from hepatitis C, a viral infection that can lead to liver cancer.

But the majority of infected people don’t know they have it.

That may change soon, and journalists should keep their ears perked for developments that will lead to good stories about hepatitis, Dr. John Ward, director of the Viral Hepatitis Program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows this morning.

The CDC is in the process of developing screening guidelines in the hope of encouraging more people to get tested for hepatitis C. Current guidelines call for asking people about risk factors, such as intravenous drug use, that many may not want to disclose or consider part of their distant past, Ward said. The new guidelines may be based on age and other factors rather than just behaviors, he said.

Additionally, the FDA is considering approval of a new, more effective drug against hepatitis C. “We are on the cusp of a revolution in hepatitis C treatment,” Ward said.

The 11 AHCJ-CDC fellows today completed the third of four days at the CDC, where they have met with CDC experts on food-borne illness, diabetes, influenza, health care-acquired infections and other topics, as well as touring the CDC emergency operations center and laboratories in Atlanta.

Other dispatches from the AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows:

11 chosen as 2010-11 AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows

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.

The Association of Health Care Journalists has announced the selection of the third class of AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellows. The 11 journalists will spend a week studying a variety of public health issues at two Atlanta campuses of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.AHCJ-CDC Health Journalism Fellowships logo

The fellowship program will include presentations, roundtable discussions and lab tours on epidemiology, global disease prevention efforts, obesity, vaccine safety, pandemic flu preparedness, autism and many other topics.

The 2010-11 AHCJ-CDC fellows are:

  • Ruby de Luna, KUOW-Seattle Public Radio
  • Felice Freyer, The Providence Journal
  • Raymond Hainer, Health.com / Time Inc.
  • Katherine Harmon, Scientific American
  • Margaret Haskell, Bangor Daily News
  • Jori Lewis, freelance journalist & radio producer
  • Rong Lin II, Los Angeles Times
  • Meredith Matthews, Current Health Teens magazine/Weekly Reader
  • Kevin McCarthy, Consumer Reports/Consumers Union
  • Lara Salahi, ABC News
  • Miranda Van Gelder, Martha Stewart Living

Fellows will tour the CDC director’s National Emergency Operations Center, meet sources on policy and research and learn how to tap the agency’s abundant resources to produce better stories. The training will take place in December at CDC’s Atlanta and Chamblee campuses.

The CDC is charged with protecting public health and safety by preventing and controlling diseases and injuries; enhancing health decisions by providing credible information on critical health issues; and promoting healthy living through strong partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

AHCJ is a nonprofit membership organization of more than 1,000 journalists interested in health and health care. It conducts training and creates other educational materials through its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. AHCJ is housed at the Missouri School of Journalism.