Tag Archives: michigan

Efforts advance in Michigan to allow dental therapists

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

A Michigan legislator has renewed efforts to expand the state’s dental workforce to include dental therapists as a means to get more care to underserved communities.

A bill, introduced in September by Republican state Senator Mike Shirkey, would allow dental therapists to begin working in Michigan.

The technically-trained workers, sometimes compared to nurse practitioners, would provide basic preventive and restorative care such as filling decayed teeth as part of dentist-headed teams. Continue reading

Almost 40 years later, fallout from Mich. contamination disaster continues

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.

Four decades after polybrominated biphenyl (PBB), a dense, flame-retardant toxin, was accidentally dumped into a Michigan cattle feed supplement, Detroit Free Press reporter Robin Erb looks into the aftermath of what she calls “one of the most catastrophic agricultural disasters in U.S. history.”

Today, despite decades of cleanup efforts, the contamination lives on in the sites of mass burials of livestock who were exposed to the toxin and thus slaughtered and, as Erb writes in the second part of the series, in the massive superfund site that has grown up around the property of the company responsible for the fatal mixup in the first place. Continue reading

Reporter finds the story behind food code violations

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.

All the time that The Muskegon Chronicle‘s Brian McVicar has been spending with his county health department’s inspection records has paid off with a slew of stories, with the most recent turning the spotlight on the thousands of food code violations area businesses have racked up in recent years.

ozPhoto by bookgrl via Flickr

For this particular story, McVicar crunched the numbers on 22,000 violations, 37 percent of them critical, logged over a four-year period. Among the most salient, he writes, were “Raw chicken and crabmeat sitting out at room temperature, food kept past its expiration date, cockroaches, mice and fruit flies living in kitchens, employees not following proper hand washing procedures.”

In addition to the typical rogue restaurants, McVicar found that a wide range of local businesses were guilty of health code violations, including “Schools, hospitals, and food stands found in places such as Michigan’s Adventure Amusement Park.”

With his broad-based, data-oriented methodology, McVicar provides a model for other local reporters looking to move beyond the typical “cherrypick the cockroach horror stories” approach that is so often found in inspection-record stories.

Stories in the series:

Why Detroit’s emergency services are lagging

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 Detroit News‘ Charlie LeDuff tried to figure out his city’s abysmal ambulance response times, and had a tough time finding excuses for why they are so far behind the national average, though staffing cuts and budget shortages certainly played a role. He wears his frustration on his sleeve and the article’s brutally incisive as a result. I’ll do my best to summarize, but it’s certainly worth a read.

One problem, according to a 2004 city audit of the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system, is that Detroit is the only major American city that does not allow a firefighter or a police officer to aid a victim before the ambulance arrives. Another problem is substandard communication equipment. Since that report was issued, at least two hospitals have closed and the EMS system has been decimated by staffing cuts causing ambulances to drive farther.

The national standard for ambulance response is eight minutes, and some Detroit suburbs have it down around five. Nobody’s sure how long Detroit ambulances take, but it’s clear that it’s well beyond the acceptable threshold. Fire Commissioner James Mack Jr. said the departments doing the best it can to maximize resources amid budget constraints, LeDuff reports.

Mack made a claim to Fox 2 News a few weeks ago that the average response time in Detroit for an ambulance to arrive on a 911 call is 12 minutes — even while admitting that often there are no units available to get to calls.

According to that 2004 audit, the two-year average at that time was about 12 minutes. And that was before the city cut its paramedics and emergency medical technicians by nearly 40 percent.

As school starts, so do youth sports injuries

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 University of Michigan’s new Michigan NeuroSport Concussion Program seems to be cropping up everywhere, and as far as I can tell, it’s all part of a coordinated effort by the University. They already claim to have one of the only pediatric sport programs in the country, and now they’re expanding it with a clinical and research focus on “neurological sports injuries.”

In related news, the latest CDC Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report includes an analysis of the numbers for “Heat Illness Among High School Athletes” from 2005 to 2009. The study examined 100 schools and nine sports, and found that heat-related illness was most common in football, and that August was the worst month for such afflictions.

AHCJ has a rich pool of resources for journalists looking to report beyond the press releases on stories like these, including:

Tip sheets
Concussions in young athletes
Reporting on sports injuries in school-age children
Health and education: Two intersecting beats
Health and education: Reporting resources
Blog posts
Tougher concussion rules from high school assn.
GAO evaluates youth concussion databases
Concussion more likely when hit is unexpected (Youth hockey study)
Attention focuses on football’s neurological effects
AP story: Hundreds of PTSD soldiers likely misdiagnosed

U. of Michigan president sits on pharma board

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.

On The New York Times Prescriptions blog, Duff Wilson reports that while her school has taken a lead in limiting conflicts of interest, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman herself sits on the board of Johnson & Johnson, a post which earns her $229,978 each year. Her defense is that she’s openly disclosed the relationship, and that the world of pharma and that of university administration rarely intersect.

Responding to questions on Ms. Coleman’s behalf Monday, Kelly E. Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the university, said the president satisfied the policy by disclosing her outside work. Ms. Coleman has never had to recuse herself from any discussion or action at the university because medical purchasing and investment decisions are so remote from her, Ms. Cunningham said.

“The same is true at J&J,” she added. “There has never been a discussion or decision at the board level that involved something related to the UM. But, of course, if there were, she would recuse herself.”

It’s not uncommon for university presidents to sit on corporate boards, Wilson found, but it appears that pharmaceutical companies are a special case given the major role universities play in medical research and health care delivery.

Thomas Donaldson, a corporate governance expert and professor of business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the case on Monday for The Times. He said many university presidents serve on corporate boards, but biomedical company boards pose special issues because of the possible ties to university research and medical schools.

“Because of the role of research and also the entrepreneurial interest that lies behind a lot of modern advances in medicine, this is a very difficult issue,” Professor Donaldson said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been aware for decades really that this potential for conflict of interest exists, but we haven’t as a moral community or even inside universities gotten our arms around it yet.”