Tag Archives: alabama

Reporter looks at how diseases of poverty flourish in the U.S.

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: Bill Rix via Flickr

Neglected tropical diseases, a group of parasitic, bacterial and viral infectious diseases that primarily affect the poorest countries in the world, also can spread in some of the most impoverished communities in the United States.

Vice News reporter Arielle Duhaime-Ross brought attention to this little known fact in “Scientists think Alabama’s sewage problem has caused a tropical parasite. The state has done little about it,” which won the National Association of Science Writers’ 2019 Science in Society Journalism Award. Continue reading

Four states refuse to name hyper-prescribing docs

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

As part of his war against overprescription and fraud, Sen. Charles Grassley asked states to share data on doctors who  write colossal amounts of prescriptions for drugs covered by Medicaid. At this point, at least four states are holding out, and Pharmalot’s Ed Silverman is naming names. Montana, Alabama, Wisconsin and New Jersey have declined Grassley’s request, and a commenter says Michigan, which didn’t name names, belongs on the list as well.

Silverman attempted to contact the four holdouts he listed and gleaned what other information he could from other published sources. The reasons officials gave are, for the most part, well-worn: The data’s too expensive to collect, it doesn’t have enough context and, according to Alabama, might wrongly pinpoint physicians with legitimate reasons for prescribing all those drugs.

In reply, Silverman lets the already disclosed data speak for itself:

… in Florida, the top Zyprexa provider wrote 1,356 scrips for 309 patients in 2008 and 1,238 for 236 last year, compared to the 10th-highest prescriber each year who wrote 256 for 55 patients and 192 scrips for 30 people, respectively (more here). In Texas, one doc authorized 13,596 filled scrips for Xanax in 2008, and increased that to 14,170 filled in 2009. The doc who occupied the lowest ranking in the top 10 prescribers wrote just 1,444 and 1,696, respectively. The list goes on…

Related

AHCJ members can read more about getting Medicaid prescribing data from states in this article by Christina Jewett. Jewett, now at CaliforniaWatch, requested Medicaid data from a number of states for an investigation for ProPublica.

For psyches, Gulf is Valdez on ‘fast forward’

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

CNN’s Jessica Ravitz reports that the damage to Gulf communities in the wake of the spill has played out like a faster version of the disintegration of Cordova, Alaska, in the wake of Exxon Valdez. Unfortunately, she writes, that doesn’t mean a quicker route to recovery. It just means a deeper dive into discombobulation and destruction. Ravitz profiles the local victims and those reaching out to help them. In the process, she paints a bleak long-term picture.

Concern about communities sends [environmental sociologist Steven] Picou on an 80-mile drive west to Bayou La Batre, a small fishing town on the opposite side of Mobile Bay. He’s traveling around the Gulf Coast to where people are hurting – to start conversations, impart what he’s learned and teach people how to listen to each other. It’s a response modeled after programs devised in Alaska.

“Unlike a natural disaster where you have a therapeutic community emerging to help you rebuild, we know that in Alaska a corrosive community emerged,” he says. “All of a sudden you have this incredible collapse of community capital.”

He describes how people may self-isolate to cope and how their distrust of others will grow and likely spread. Cynicism about BP, he says, will move on to the federal government, the Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, local governments, neighbors. Even family.

Ravitz looks at the strong sense of community now present in these places and whether the changes wrought by an influx of new people and money from BP will be permanent. She also reports that domestic violence shelters and hotlines are busier than ever as stress builds and and oil workers, who used to be away from home for weeks at a time, are now stuck on land.

For its part, BP has so far declined a request from Louisiana for $10 million for mental health aid for its residents. Catholic Charities is waiting to hear from BP about another grant that includes about $1.2 million for counseling. Peer-to-peer counseling programs, in which local residents are trained to reach out to other community members, have been launched. One mental health worker says people who were affected by Katrina have been “re-traumatized” by the oil spill.

Doctor’s path shows licensing’s weaknesses

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Associated Press’ Jay Reeves exposes systemic flaws in state medical licensing through the story of a physician who was twice accused of sexual misconduct and thrice fired in Tennessee, and who subsequently set up shop in Alabama, where he has been charged with rape and possession of child pornography.
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The doctor’s offenses had never been reported to regulators, and he seems to have been able to repeatedly outrun his transgressions. Reeves reports that unfortunate situations like this are not unusual:

Patient safety advocate and consultant Ilene Corina said states too often let troubled doctors move and switch jobs when they get in trouble.

“There is not sufficient oversight in many cases,” said Corina, of Long Island, N.Y., a board member of the National Patient Safety Foundation. “Is it a problem? Absolutely.”