Tag Archives: training

Health journalists gathered for training, networking in Silicon Valley #ahcj15

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.

Health Journalism 2015Nearly 700 people attended Health Journalism 2015, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists. The gathering, in California’s Silicon Valley in late April, provided journalists with expert speakers and panels on everything from hospital quality to a press briefing with the secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a kickoff speech that many attendees talked about throughout the conference, Stanford physician and author Abraham Verghese, M.D., offered an eloquent description about the importance of how doctors care for patients. Continue reading

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supports health journalism training efforts with $450,000 grant

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.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, the educational arm of the Association of Health Care Journalists, has been awarded a three-year grant of $450,000 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to continue offering training and resources for journalists covering health issues.

RWJF announced the grant this week to coincide with Health Journalism 2015, the annual conference of AHCJ, being held April 24-27 in Silicon Valley. RWJF was one of the first supporters of the association, now marking its 17th year.

The funding will support the association’s annual conference, regional workshops on niche health topics, an annual rural health journalism workshop and the building of health data resources on AHCJ’s website healthjournalism.org. Continue reading

Journalists should learn about study design, evidence-based medicine

About Joanne Kenen

Joanne Kenen, (@JoanneKenen) the health editor at Politico, has been AHCJ’s topic leader on health reform and curated related material at healthjournalism.org. Follow her on Facebook.

Earlier this month I saw on Twitter one of those collisions between journalism and wonkdom. Maybe “collision” isn’t the right word; maybe it was some kind of interspecies mating dance. Anyhow, the gist of it was that we, journalists, don’t know how to evaluate evidence and someone should step in and teach us.

So I stuck in my two cents (or, rather, my two tweets) pointing out that, yes, there is a need for training and, yes, there are places to get the training, including through AHCJ. (See more after the Twitter discussion.)

So, before I remind you about those resources, just a word on why we need them:

On the surface, it may seem that AHCJ houses two kinds of health journalists – those of us who report on the science side of things, and those of us who are more in a policy world. But some of us do both – and research/evidence/evaluating science are also becoming an increasing part of the underpinnings of policy beats. Value-based purchasing, comparative effectiveness, benefits of screening/prevention, quality measures, outcome research … these are all part of the health care reform story.

That doesn’t mean all of us must become  economists/biologists/epidemiologists/statisticians. Old fashioned reporting – including calling experts who can help us make sense of numbers  – is certainly part of the job. But it’s also good to have some sense of what the experts are talking about, what these numbers mean. Why a study on N=16 patients doesn’t really tell us that much. What do we mean by “endpoints,” “outcomes,” “progression?” What’s relative versus absolute risk? Etc.

So for those of you who haven’t  taken a cyber-stroll through the AHCJ website, take five minutes and check out tip sheets, resources and slim guides. Of particular relevance to this discussion is Gary Schwitzer’s slim guide, “Covering Medical Research.”  There’s also a tip sheet/PDF presentation by Schwitzer on “Understanding studies.” His Health News Watchdog blog is also useful.

Reporting on Health (at USC) also has a lot of useful resources, and this essay “Tricks of the Trade: Finding Nuggets in the River of Medical Studies” is a good entry point to understanding data. It’s by Lauran Neergard, a longtime Associated Press health and science writer.

In addition,  there’s a course called Medicine in the Media, sponsored by National Institute of Health’s Office of Medical Applications of Research.  It’s free, but you have to apply, and there’s not room for everyone.  I know of at least one recent summer (the only one I, personally, could have managed the timing!) it wasn’t given, and as of now, there’s nothing on the website about this year. But you can sign up for email notifications, so if you are interested, do that now because the deadline in past years has been early.

The Poynter Institute has some online modules, too. Lots of the focus is on new media and writing and story telling, but there is a math basics refresher for those of you who haven’t taken it since the SATs, some online Excel training, and a unit on reporting on nonprofits.

An aside –  another kind of data to watch out for: Polls. At the AHCJ conference in Philadelphia last year, we had a session on understanding political polls. Here are materials from that presentation, from Claudia Deane, associate director of public opinion and survey research, Kaiser Family Foundation, and representing the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

The basics are useful not just for political polls but for all those other polls that end up in health reporters’ inboxes. An awful lot of them are meaningless, either because of the sampling methodology (or lack thereof) or because the questions were written in such an apple pie, no-trade-offs way. Americans love pain control!  Americans want to cure cancer! Americans like healthy children! An online survey of doctors who may or may not be in a relevant specialty but who felt like clicking on the poll this week agree  with X, Y and Z.

We’ll take a look at other resources out there in future posts.

And one word of wisdom. Get familiar with these concepts and materials, but don’t necessarily try to cram your head overly full of information or skills  that you aren’t going to put to use right away.  When I was a Kaiser Media Fellow a few years ago, the program included three days of pretty intense Excel training. But my reporting project wasn’t data driven.  Having that basic familiarity with Excel is useful and it gives me a basis to build on if and when I need to. But, for me, a three-day crash course – without immediate application – was probably overkill. (Although we had a lot of good meals in St. Pete!)

[Editor’s note: If you’re looking for Excel help, check out AHCJ’s tip sheet “Intro to investigating health data using spreadsheets” or, for more advanced help, “Finding patterns and trends in health data: Pivot tables in spreadsheets.” Of course, there will be training in all of these topics and more at Health Journalism 2012.]

Joanne KenenJoanne Kenen (@JoanneKenen) is AHCJ’s health reform topic leader. If you have questions or suggestions for future resources, please send them to joanne@healthjournalism.org.