Tag Archives: international

Initiative to help reporters cover European health

AHCJ has launched an effort to help reporters understand and cover health issues in Europe.

This new resource includes a series of web pages devoted to European issues and resources, as well as a listserv to allow journalists to share information, ask questions, join a debate, open fresh debates or post requests and queries similar to what happens on AHCJ’s main discussion list.europe-page

There is substantial health news in Europe that is certainly relevant there, but understanding those issues may help reporters everywhere put their reporting on in a global context. European countries are seeing proposals for cross-border health care, issues around the movement of health professionals and the drain of qualified staff from the world’s poorest countries to Europe, the United States and Australia.

Trudy Lieberman, AHCJ’s immediate past president, is coordinating the effort.

“For many years we have wanted to enlarge the reach of AHCJ to help journalists in Europe tell the stories of their own health care systems,” Lieberman said. “We believe that American journalists can learn from their counterparts overseas and vice versa, especially when it comes to covering infectious diseases, new drugs and treatments, access to care and what it costs. This new resource now allows them to do that. We look forward to our new trans-Atlantic dialogue.”

John Lister


AHCJ Executive Director Len Bruzzese says John Lister, a veteran health journalist in England and a senior lecturer at Coventry University, has agreed to serve as the European web coordinator. He will help identify issues and bring together resources from across Europe that will  improve the quality of health and medical journalism and enhance its professional standing. On these pages, you will find some discussion points and background on some emerging issues in Europe, as well as a resource page, identifying useful sources of official and alternative information on topics in the news.

“John is excited about finding contributors from other European nations who can feed into the website and start some cross-border discussions – and perhaps collaborations,” Bruzzese said.

Study: Foreign training doesn’t affect care

A Health Affairs study evaluating the relative quality of care provided by international medical graduates practicing in the United States has attracted attention from all quarters and reignited the discussion about medical licensing in this country.

First, a few background statistics pulled from Pauline Chen’s commentary in The New York Times.

  • About 25 percent of all practicing physicians in the U.S. graduated from international schools (Canada is not considered international in this context)
  • 20 percent of those are Americans who studied medicine abroad, usually in the Caribbean
  • 30 percent of the nation’s primary care doctors graduate from international med schools

Chen, again:

… it turns out that contrary to certain individuals’ worst fears, accent or nationality did not affect patient outcomes. Rather, the main factor was being board-certified: completing a full residency at an accredited training program, passing written and, depending on the specialty, oral examinations, and having proof of experience with a defined set of clinical problems and technical procedures.

There was, however, one key difference, and it came in primary care. Patients of foreign-born primary care doctors fared better than patients of American primary care doctors. “The foreign international medical graduates are some of the smartest kids from around the world,” said John J. Norcini, lead author of the study . “When they come over, they tend to fill in where the U.S. medical school graduates don’t necessarily go.”

If you’re looking for further background on the international component of America’s physician workforce, I recommend the AMA’s 2010 profile of international medical graduates. As you can see below, 20 countries taught more than 70 percent of the international medical graduates in the United States.


Remember, free access to Health Affairs is one of many perks enjoyed by AHCJ members.

Tracking Canada’s asbestos funding

Fallout from Dangers in the Dust, the mammoth asbestos investigation by the BBC and the Center for Public Integrity/International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, continues. On the ICIJ Global Muckracker blog, Jim Morris details the Canadian Public Health Association‘s ongoing effort to detail the financial relationship between a powerful Quebec asbestos lobby and Canada’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

The CPHA’s policy director, James Chauvin, told ICIJ that the institute was “polite” in its responses to inquiries and did send “a pile of technical manuals.” But the manuals shed no light on how C$20 million in federal funds has been spent over the past quarter-century, Chauvin said, and the information wasn’t available on the ministry’s website.

The lobbyists, Montreal’s Chrysotile Institute, have earned Canada the title of “primary booster” of the global asbestos trade. The institute receives both government and industry funds, though the numbers are still fuzzy for both.

If you’ve somehow missed Dangers in the Dust thus far, head over immediately. The infographics alone are worth the price of admission. At the very least, read Brenda Wilson’s summary on the NPR health blog.

Foreign trial data used in 4/5 of approved drugs

FairWarning’s Lea Yu and The New York Times‘ Gardiner Harris drew our attention to a report from the HHS Office of Inspector General which reviewed 2008 data and found that “Eighty percent of approved marketing applications for drugs and biologics contained data from foreign clinical trials.” Furthermore, the OIG found, “Over half of clinical trial subjects and sites were located outside the United States.”

The OIG expects the trend to grow in the future, writing that “Western Europe accounted for most foreign clinical trial subjects and sites; however, Central and South America had the highest average number of subjects per site.”

The FDA only inspected a minuscule percentage of these foreign test sites, but says it has taken the OIG’s advice and is stepping up efforts to put together agreements with its foreign counterparts and to figure out other methods to standardize and evaluate these foreign trials.

Package spotlights maternal health in 5 countries

The team at the Pulitzer Gateway (a site from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting) have turned their focus toward worldwide maternal health and produced “Dying for Life,” a package that spans five countries and three continents. Here are its components:

A reminder that despite a slight improvement in global maternal health, the situation in some countries is still deteriorating. The end result will be “Edge of Joy,” a documentary set to be released this summer.

Hanna Ingber Win visits maternal health programs administered by the UN Population Fund. She filed five dispatches.

Samuel Loewenberg investigated the social, medical, economic and political factors behind the “health crises” affecting two impoverished Mexican states. He filed three stories.

Marco Vernaschi photographed the everyday realities of a region with critical health care access and delivery issues.

Hanna Ingber Win investigated maternal health disparities and efforts to improve the situation in India, particularly the province of Assam. She posted five stories.