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Several freelancer members of AHCJ have asked for a tip sheet about making Freedom of Information Act/open records requests to federal, state and local government agencies. I have filed only a few such requests in my journalism career, so I reached out to an expert, subject librarian Katy Boss at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
Boss regularly helps journalism students file FOIA (federal government) and FOIL (state and local government) requests in New York (often referred to as Sunshine Law or open records requests in other states) and has written a clear and helpful guide. AHCJ has reprinted a lightly edited version as a tip sheet. At the bottom, I included links to the FOIA webpages of federal agencies of particular interest to health care journalists and links to two websites that provide open records information for every state. Continue reading
While deaths from COVID-19 have naturally been a major focus over the past 18 months, cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a significant and growing problem. Even during the pandemic, heart disease was the leading cause of death in 2020. More than 868,000 Americans die of heart disease or stroke every year. That’s one-third of all deaths.
Nearly a quarter of men (23%) and 14% of women between ages 60 and 79 have some type of heart disease and millions more are at risk due to hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, family history, or other risk factors.
The pandemic may have even worsened rates of CVD, as many people avoided or delayed routine health care and management of chronic conditions. For those over 80, the rate of CVD jumps to 36% for men and 21% for women. As the population of older adults in the U.S. increases to a projected 22% in 2050, heart disease will continue to impact mortality and morbidity rates. So it makes sense to become familiar with one of the leading types of heart disease, atherosclerosis. Continue reading
San Diego Union-Tribune health care reporter Paul Sisson was working on a home improvement project on a Sunday in early May when he received an urgent call from one of his editors. Scripps Health, the area’s second-largest health system in patient discharges, had announced that a cyberattack was forcing the shutdown of all computer systems in its four major hospitals, and the news desk needed help covering the issue. Sisson, an AHCJ member, jumped in, and ended up working until midnight.
Sisson said the typical email channels he used to contact the health system’s public affairs officers, its CEO and other sources were offline, and the hospital was limited in what it could confirm, forcing him to call on sources and skills cultivated during some 20 years of reporting. Despite Sisson’s experience, it was his first time covering a ransomware attack. He has compiled the lessons learned into a new tip sheet, which has been added to the Health IT Core Topic section of AHCJ’s website. Continue reading
Most of our attention over the past year has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, but AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) remain global threats.
June marks the 40th anniversary of the first cases of what would later be known as AIDS being reported by the CDC. Since then, 32 million people have died around the world.
Public health leaders have made a lot of progress in slowing the spread of HIV, but there are still thousands of Americans infected with the virus annually. Many of them aren’t aware they’re infected. The CDC reported that in 2019, there were 34,800 newly diagnosed HIV infections, down from 37,800 in 2015. About 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the U.S. Continue reading
Cannabis. Weed. Pot. Whatever you call it, marijuana use is on the rise among the older population, especially the Baby Boomers.
Thirty-six states plus the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories have so far approved the drug for medical purposes; 15 of those also allow recreational use and several others are considering it or already have bills in the works. My home state of New York, which had approved the use of medical marijuana, recently passed legislation to legalize small amounts for recreational use. Continue reading