USA Today‘s Alison Young reviewed inspection reports for hundreds of restaurants at 10 airports and found a large number of critical violations, including 42 percent of the restaurants reviewed at Seattle-Tacoma and 77 percent of restaurants reviewed at Reagan National Airport.
“Food court in the Sea-Tac Airport.” Photo by WarderJack
The most common culprits? “Grab-and-go” sandwiches and related foods, which aren’t kept cold enough to ward off food-borne pathogens.
Young notes that it’s hard to pinpoint the number sickened by airport sandwiches, as it’s difficult to track foodborne illness back to a specific source even when the customers aren’t constantly boarding airplanes and taking off for all corners of the earth.
Scott Hensley, on NPR’s Shots blog, recently noted an FDA warning to a Denver kitchen that prepared thousands of meals a day for airlines:
We can sum up the findings in the LSG SkyChefs facility a few months back with a four-letter abbreviation used to describe the roaches and other insects found there: TNTC.
That stands for Too Numerous To Count.
Hensley runs down some of the other problems found there and a reaction from the company spokeswoman.
AHCJ member Alison Young has gone from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she has been writing an investigative column, to USA Today, Matt Dornic reports on MediaBistro.com. Young, who previously covered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will cover health on the paper’s national desk.
Young also is president of the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ board of directors.
USA Today‘s Steve Sternberg and Jack Gillum put a new spin on federal Hospital Compare ratings and other hospital quality data, matching the ratings, as well as data on death rates, with popular travel destinations and the locations of state parks. The reporters make the case that travelers should keep hospital quality data in mind when planning vacations.
From the story, which also includes a list of poorly-rated hospitals in travel hotspots:
A USA Today analysis finds two dozen hospitals near popular travel destinations, as compiled by the National Travel Monitor, have death rates among the worst in the USA. A separate analysis shows that one of every four hospitals with high death rates for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia — 94 of 402 — are near state parks.
AHCJ Vice President Charles Ornstein, whose own hospital quality coverage has earned national recognition, recently updated his comprehensive “Road map for covering your local hospital’s quality” tip sheet with links to state-by-state resources and additional nationwide tools for journalists looking into hospital quality.
AHCJ article: Making sense of hospital quality reports
Book: Covering the Quality of Health Care: A Resource Guide for Journalists
Slim guide: Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web
Free online training
On the Beat: Covering Hospitals: An innovative simulation guides you through the sources and resources you need to tackle the beat. You’ll tap into the same tools that you’ll use on the job, and you’ll have a virtual mentor to walk you through the maze of reports, statistics and sources. One story line teaches you about reporting on hospital quality
Investigating hospitals: Find stories with ready-to-use Hospital Compare data: AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to compare hospitals in their regions by generating spreadsheet files from the HHS database, allowing members to compare more than a few hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software. AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits.
Hot Health Headlines
USA Today‘s Gregg Zoroya reports the results of a Pentagon survey of more than 13,000 active-duty soldiers and their spouses intended to gauge the effect of the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan upon their children.
Among the survey’s findings:
- Six in 10 say children’s fear and anxiety increase when a parent goes to war
- A majority say their children have coped well, but a quarter say they have coped poorly or very poorly
- A third say their child’s grades and behavior in school have suffered
Zoroya also reports on all the measures the military has taken to help parents cope, including family counselors, Sesame Street kits and graphic novels.
The Army reported that 143 active duty soldiers killed themselves in the last year, the highest number since the statistics started being kept in 1980. This year’s numbers are on track to break that unfortunate record. Gregg Zoroya of USA Today reports that an Army investigator blames at least part of this rise to a lack of day-to-day oversight by commanders accustomed to leading amidst the intensity of the battlefield rather than the less-obvious perils of the barracks.
The investigator’s solution is simple: commanders need to interact with their troops more, to keep in touch and keep their eyes out for risk factors.
Zoroya also noted another contributing factor to the climbing suicide rate:
Along with soldiers who engage in risky behaviors, McGuire says, the Army has a greater number of troops who entered the service with pre-existing anxiety or depression or who have stopped taking their behavioral medication in order to meet entrance requirements.
Soldiers concerned they may be at risk can try this online mental health self-assessment designed specifically for members of the armed services.
In USA Today, Steve Sternberg covers a study which found that guidelines used to treat cardiac patients are often not based on conclusive research.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the use of evidence-based medicine has improved patient care,” says Sidney Smith of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, an author of the study and an expert on medical guidelines. “The trouble is, we need more evidence.”
The study’s authors, Sternberg said, advocate a strong scientific basis for every health-care decision. The American Heart Association, he reports, is starting a “Get with the Guidelines” program to encourage evidence-based treatment.
“Doctors say the study highlights a disturbing lack of scientific evidence underlying complex treatment questions, including how much aspirin to prescribe for heart attack prevention, how best to treat heart valve disease and when to choose angioplasty over bypass surgery.
Research shows that patients do best when doctors follow guidelines based on scientific evidence. This push for evidence-based medicine has come to define a new era in medical care, one in which doctors and hospitals are judged on their performance — and their grade depends partly on how true they are to medical guidelines.”