Photo: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf via FlickrMicrobiologist Kerry Pollard performs a manual extraction of the coronavirus at the Pennsylvania Department of Health Bureau of Laboratories.
Getting accurate data and information from local and state public officials is central to all journalists covering the COVID-19 pandemic, but what can reporters do when it’s hard to get local public health departments even to answer the phone or emails?
Local, state and federal budget constraints, over the past decade, have meant a loss of 56,000 jobs in the public health sector, including many public information officer and other communications positions. When the pandemic emerged in March, public health departments had few people with science backgrounds to communicate with the public. Continue reading
As Hurricane Dorian reaches closer to landfall in Florida or southern Georgia this weekend, we’ve updated our list of resources to help reporters connect with public health officials and other sources.
Excessive flooding and damage to local health infrastructure means people will be dealing with the public health effects of the storm for a while.
Even if you’re not reporting on an affected location, this may be a good time to ask some questions of your local public health leaders and write about disaster preparedness issues. Here are some resources to help craft those questions: Continue reading
From the moment I saw the study — and editorial and editor’s note — among JAMA’s embargoed studies, I knew it would be a doozy. Certain topics arouse controversy simply by their existence, and water fluoridation is very high on that list.
So when I was assigned to write about the JAMA Pediatrics study (Reminder: AHCJ members get free access to the JAMA Network.) finding a link between prenatal fluoride exposure and reduced IQ in preschoolers, two things went through my mind: One, this is going to be covered horribly by some outlets and likely create unnecessary anxiety among parents, especially pregnant women (who have enough to worry about when it comes to do’s and don’ts). Two, I need to be one of those who gets it right. Continue reading
As the editors of the prestigious medical journal anticipated, the newly published Canadian study is causing a stir.
The paper, which appears in JAMA Pediatrics links higher fluoride consumption by pregnant women with lower intelligence scores in their offspring. The findings represent the latest foray by researchers into fluoride safety, an emotionally fraught topic in both the U.S. and Canada.
The authors of the paper studied fluoride exposure for 512 mother-child pairs, about 40% of whom lived in fluoridated communities across six Canadian cities. They calculated fluoride levels in local water supplies and fluoride concentrations in the pregnant women’s’ urine.
As public health officials grapple with strategies to respond to natural disasters and disease outbreaks, they face a host of challenges, from misinformation on social media and some communities’ lack of trust in government to the definition of what being “prepared” means.
That is why engaging with community leaders on emergency preparedness is especially important, two public health leaders told AHCJ members in a recent webcast. Continue reading
Photo: DIFD via Flickr
Public health emergencies often happen — from a severe flu season or measles outbreak to wildfires or a severe weather event such as a hurricane. Count on them to be a mainstay of the health beat.
Experts in health security continue to debate the readiness of the health system for emergencies. At a July 19 National Academies of Sciences event, Robert Kadlec, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), said that he believes the while the public and private sectors have plans that “have addressed a lot of continuity of operations and classical preparedness” there remains more to be done. Continue reading