Tag Archives: #ahcj14

Concerns over ‘fracking’ prompt research into health effects, occupational hazards #ahcj14

Tina Casagrand

About Tina Casagrand

Tina Casagrand is a freelance journalist in Jefferson City, Mo. She focused on investigative and environmental reporting at the Missouri School of Journalism and is a fellow at The Open Notebook. She attended Health Journalism 2014 as an AHCJ-Missouri Health Journalism Fellow, a program supported by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Lee S. Newman, an environmental and occupational health physician of the Colorado School of Public Health, talks about the occupational hazards of fracking workers.

Photo: Tina Casagrand Lee S. Newman, an environmental and occupational health physician of the Colorado School of Public Health, talks about the occupational hazards of fracking workers.

Although 15 million Americans are now living less than a mile from natural gas wells, the research to evaluate any health hazards are thin.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of drilling into the earth and injecting water, chemicals and sand to release natural gas. The extensive use of fracking has revived the energy industry in U.S., but the practice has prompted environmental and public health concerns.

For instance, carcinogenic chemicals, such as benzene, may escape and contaminate the groundwater around the fracking site and emit toxic substances into the air, said Cara DeGette, editor of Colorado Public News and moderator of the “Fracking, drilling, and other environmental health concerns” panel at Health Journalism 2014. Continue reading

Researchers ‘owe’ the public information about financial ties #ahcj14

Blythe Bernhard

About Blythe Bernhard

Blythe Bernhard reports on health and medicine for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and serves on AHCJ's Right to Know and Contest committees. She attended Health Journalism 2014 as an AHCJ-Missouri Health Journalism fellow, a program supported by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

When writing about medical studies, reporters should always ask researchers about any financial relationships with drug companies or device manufacturers. That was one of the main lessons from a panel on conflicts of interest on Saturday at Health Journalism 2014.

Starting in September, sunshine provisions in the Affordable Care Act will require drug companies to disclose most payments to doctors. Some companies have already started to publicize their financial relationships with doctors. But most medical journal articles do not give accurate information on researchers’ potential conflicts of interest, said panelist Susan Chimonas of the Institute of Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University.

“You shouldn’t be uncomfortable asking these questions,” Chimonas said. “They owe you this information. They owe everyone this information.” Continue reading

Journalists high on health journalism for AHCJ’s annual conference #ahcj14

Andrew M. Seaman

About Andrew M. Seaman

Andrew M. Seaman is a medical journalist with Reuters Health. He started at Reuters as a Kaiser Family Foundation fellow in the D.C. bureau covering health policy and is a 2011 graduate of Columbia University's Journalism School, where he focused on investigative reporting as a Stabile Fellow.

AHCJ Audience 2014Journalists from all corners of the U.S. and some other countries gathered in the Mile-High City last week to learn from health care experts and each other at Health Journalism 2014.

For those who couldn’t attend the conference or all the sessions they would have liked, the Association of Health Care Journalists has been posting coverage of the conference to its Covering Health blog – including photos, videos and session recaps.

While at the conference, the journalists took part in field trips, workshops and discussions about topics ranging from oral health to sports medicine.

Two of the conference’s highlights were talks by two experts who continue to impact the world of health care. Continue reading

Offit challenges reporters to avoid false balance #ahcj14

Alan Scher Zagier

About Alan Scher Zagier

Alan Scher Zagier is a St. Louis-based independent journalist who came to Missouri on a one-year teaching appointment at the Mizzou School of Journalism and decided to stick around. He spent 11 years with The Associated Press and has worked as a newspaper editor and reporter in Florida and North Carolina. He is attending Health Journalism 2014 on an AHCJ-Missouri Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Photo by Maggie Prude

Photo by Maggie Prude

Paul Offit, M.D., has had it with the journalistic canard of false balance as a reflexive stand-in for objectivity – and he’s not shy about taking health journalists to task for their contributions to what he calls a skewed public narrative on the dangers of vaccines.

“You tell two sides of the story when only one side is supported by science,” the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine pediatrics professor and scourge of anti-vaccine activists said at Saturday’s Health Journalism 2014 awards luncheon.

Offit singled out a Philadelphia television news station’s breathless report on a meningitis B vaccine offered to Princeton University students in response to a 2013 outbreak of a rare strain that was also found at the University of California-Santa Barbara. The report was entitled “Student Guinea Pigs?” and featured interviews with both Offit, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Sherri Tenpenny, D.O., a vaccine critic. The reporter frames Tenpenny’s sound-bite with the jarring qualifier that while she “doesn’t hate vaccines,” Tenpenny has doubts about the vaccine made available to Princeton students. Continue reading

Simulating an emergency room response #ahcj14

Hoag Levins

About Hoag Levins

Hoag Levins is managing editor for digital publications at the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI), a center within The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Photo by Hoag Levins

Photo by Hoag Levins

Thursday’s field trip to the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus included a visit to the School of Medicine’s health simulation facility, the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence. As part of that visit, AHCJ members were selected to try their hand at treating a computer-controlled dummy patient. This photo shows three of them in the simulation “emergency room” with a dummy industrial-accident patient. They are:

In the hard hat, Rachel Roubein, a health reporter at the Carroll County Times in Westminster, Md., is playing the role of “friend or family member” who delivered the patient to the ER and then became obnoxious, creating an added stress level under which medical personnel had to work.

Joey Failma, in the green scrubs, is a CAPE staffer playing the role of ER doctor.

Marijke Vroomen-Durning, in the middle, is – in real life –  a registered nurse and an independent journalist from Montreal, Quebec, playing the part of an ER nurse.

Margarita Cambest, in the white coat, is a staff reporter at the Kentucky New Era in Hopkinsville, Ky. She is acting as a nurse’ aide keeping pressure on a severely cut leg.

With control room computers changing the patient’s condition to dire, and the monitors showing his rapidly declining biometrics, the scene was a frantic, but educational, one. In the end the patient died and the AHCJ members left with a much better sense of both the importance of clinical simulators in the medical education process as well as the kind of often-excruciating stress ER clinicians must work in.

Oral health disparities persist despite advances in prevention #ahcj14

Kelsey Ryan

About Kelsey Ryan

Kelsey Ryan (on Twitter, @kelsey_ryan) covers health care for The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. She is a 2014 AHCJ Rural Health Journalism Fellow.

Photo by Pia ChristensenJonathan Bowser of the University of Colorado School of Medicine called oral health “the low-hanging fruit of primary care prevention.”

Photo by Pia ChristensenJonathan Bowser of the University of Colorado School of Medicine called oral health “the low-hanging fruit of primary care prevention.”

In 2007, a 12-year-old Maryland boy named Deamonte Driver died from a tooth infection that spread to his brain. His family had lost Medicaid coverage and an $80 tooth extraction might have saved his life, wrote Washington Post staff writer Mary Otto, whose story helped spotlight oral health disparities.

Oral disease is a disease of poverty, said Diane Brunson, R.D.H., M.P.H., director of public health and interprofessional education at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, during a session called “Covering disparities in oral health,” at Health Journalism 2014 in Denver. Continue reading