Tag Archives: centers for disease control and prevention

How state disease detectives track and prevent spread of STDs

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.

CDC/ Sarah Bailey Cutchin

As sexually transmitted diseases, like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, have surged 31 percent over the past five years, states are relying more than ever on disease detectives to halt that spread.

These detectives are called “disease intervention specialists.” They are trained to track down and counsel people who have been diagnosed with STDs and anyone they have had intimate contact with. The aim is to ensure everyone is tested and treated, preventing anyone else from getting the STD. Continue reading

After 5-year FOIA fight, documents show ties between researchers, officials in Lyme wars

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.

Documents obtained after a long FOIA battle reveal “behind-the-scenes maneuvers and long-standing connections between the scientists’ group and government officials” in the debate over whether Lyme disease can be chronic.

The debate, and the fight for the documents, are detailed by Mary Beth Pfeiffer in the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and by documentary film maker Kris Newby on IRE’s Transparency Watch blog.

In 2007, in doing research for a film, Newby requested emails and resumes pertaining to three employees at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. She writes that “For five years the agency strung me along with frivolous denials, mysterious delays, shifting explanations and false promises. In essence, the delays became an illegal, off-the-books FOIA denial.” Her account of how the CDC handled – or didn’t handle  her request is alarming.

Newby, whose film had been completed, provided the 3,000 pages of documents to Pfeiffer.

The documents show close connections between the government officials who set disease policy and researchers who have received government funds and written treatment guidelines. “As a result, physicians and scientists with opposing views on Lyme disease believe they have been marginalized in the debate.” This graphic provides a good overview of the connections and issues.

Journalists visit CDC to learn latest about flu

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.

Fourteen journalists, sponsored by AHCJ, are wrapping up a two-day workshop at the CDC about covering influenza. The workshop included a series of on-the-record sessions with CDC experts to prepare front-line journalists for the upcoming flu season. Public health experts are providing a primer on the flu, examine how it is being tracked, expectations for vaccines and antivirals, and what communities can do to deal with the fallout.

Speakers included CDC Director Thomas Frieden and Anne Schuchat, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization & Respiratory Diseases, as well as a number of other experts.

The AHCJ-sponsored journalists are:

  • Diane Chun , health and science writer, The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun
  • Tom Corwin, science and medicine reporter, The Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle
  • Dawn Davis, writer, Caribbean Today
  • Dana Felty, features reporter, Savannah (Ga.) Morning News
  • Karen Garloch, medical writer, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
  • Joe Goldeen, health-care reporter, The (Stockton, Calif.) Record
  • Nina Hemphill Reedern, health and fitness editor, Upscale Magazine
  • Sandy Kleffman, health care reporter, Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News
  • Valerie Lego, health reporter, WZZM-Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Andy Miller, independent journalist, Atlanta
  • Sonia Morgan, assistant editor, CN Media
  • Shanderia Posey, healthscene editor, The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger
  • Cynthia Roby, journalist, South Florida Times
  • Olivier Uyttebrouck , health/general assignment reporter, Albuquerque Journal/Albuquerque Publishing Co.

Some of the journalists have already written about the seminar and they all will take what they learned this week home to help them report on influenza for their local readers and viewers.

CDC used flawed data on lead in drinking water

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 Washington Post‘s Carol Leonnig reports that an investigation by the House Committee on Science and Technology’s Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight has confirmed what The Washington Post first reported last year, namely:

leadPhoto by blandm via Flickr

The nation’s premier public health agency knowingly used flawed data to claim that high lead levels in the District’s drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public… And, investigators determined, the agency has not publicized more thorough internal research showing that the problem harmed children across the city and continues to endanger thousands of D.C. residents.” Those who need a refresher on the issue can refer to the Post‘s timeline and story archive.

The larger issue here is that the committee and the Government Accountability Office are looking into how the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry evaluates public health issues.

Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller (D-NC) had some harsh words for the department:

“We need more honesty and transparency and less attitude from these offices. When you work at a public health science agency and the words most frequently used are ‘haphazard,’ ‘hit-or-miss’ and ‘ad hoc,’ maybe you should pause and reflect.”

Little recent progress on foodborne illnesses

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 CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report contains some early numbers on foodborne illness rates in 2009. The data, NPR health blogger Scott Hensley writes, aren’t promising, and it looks like most infection rates haven’t really improved since 2004. A transcript and audio of the April 15 media briefing is available.

The report comes with data for the 10 states monitored by the CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network; they’re also broken down by age. To demonstrate just how variable the infection rate is, we’ve pulled numbers for two of the most common foodborne illnesses, salmonella and campylobacter.

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CDC health overview: Diagnostic scans tripled

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 CDC has released the 2009 version of Health, United States, their annual summary of health numbers and trends. It’s an epic heap of data; get the full PDF here.

For a 574-page, 10.22 MB government document, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate. There’s a table of contents, links and a nifty little feature which allows you to pull up a spreadsheet of the data from any chart or graph. In addition to the lead story on medical technology and scanning, the report includes 150 data tables. That’s a bit too much to summarize here, so we’ll settle for the CDC’s version of the highlights:

  • … the rate of magnetic resonance imaging, known as MRI, and computed and positron emission tomography or CT/PET scans, ordered or provided, tripled between 1996 and 2007.
  • The rate of adults aged 45 and over discharged from the hospital after receiving at least one knee replacement procedure increased 70 percent from 1996 to 2006 (26.5 per 10,000 population in 1996 to 45.2 per 10,000 in 2006).
  • From 1988-1994 to 2003-2006, use of antidiabetic drugs among adults aged 45 years and over increased about 50 percent, and the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol among this age group increased almost tenfold.
  • The number of new organ transplantations per 1 million people increased 31 percent for kidney transplants (43.7 per 1 million in 1997 vs. 57.2 in 2006) and 42 percent for liver transplants between 1997 and 2006 (15.6 per 1 million in 1997 vs. 22.2 in 2006).
  • Life expectancy at birth increased more for the black than for the white population between 1990 and 2007, thereby narrowing the gap in life expectancy between these two racial groups. Overall U.S. life expectancy in 2007 was 77.9 years.
  • In 2007, 20 percent of U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers, a slight decrease from 21 percent in the previous three years. Men were more likely to be current cigarette smokers than women (22 percent vs. 17 percent).
  • In 2005-2006, 30 percent of adults often or almost always had trouble sleeping in the past month.
  • In 2007, 20 percent of adults 18 years and over had at least one emergency department visit in the past year, and 7 percent had two or more visits.
  • The percentage of the population taking at least one prescription drug during the previous month increased from 38 percent in 1988-1994 to 47 percent in 2003-2006, and the percentage taking three or more prescription drugs increased from 11 percent to 21 percent.