Covering Health is a blog maintained by the Association of Health Care Journalists. It is intended to keep journalists who report on health and health care issues informed about the latest news in the field, aware of noteworthy stories and reports, and able to connect with colleagues.
The Association of Health Care Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues. Its mission is to improve the quality, accuracy and visibility of health care reporting, writing and editing. There are more than 1,500 members of AHCJ.
Along with its 501(c)3 educational arm – The Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism – AHCJ offers training opportunities, fellowships, publications, tip sheets, articles and web resources for reporters covering all aspects of health care journalism, including medical research, public policy, consumer health, health law, clinical health, public health, ethics and the business of health care. Be sure to see the wide range of resources available on our website for reporters who cover health and medicine.
Covering Health is produced by a group of contributing editors/moderators:
Len Bruzzese, executive director, AHCJ
Bruzzese is the executive director of AHCJ and its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. He is also an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves on the executive committee of the Council of National Journalism Organizations. Bruzzese, a founding staff member of USA Today, spent 20 years in daily journalism before entering the nonprofit and academic worlds. He served as deputy director of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting for seven years before helping base AHCJ at Missouri in 2005. He is co-author of “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook,” (fourth edition), and has edited 11 reporter beat books focused on different reporting topics of use to daily journalists. He has won several newspaper and magazine editing awards and was named Outstanding Alumnus in Journalism by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Bruzzese’s journalism career included writing, editing and management stints at USA Today, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.), the Pensacola News Journal and Gannett News Service (Washington, D.C.). His final daily newspaper position was as editor of The Olympian in Olympia, Wash.
Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia), managing editor/online services, AHCJ
Christensen manages and edits the content on healthjournalism.org. She assists with the editing and production of AHCJ’s publications, including books, conference programs and the newsletter. In 2010, she was featured in “Journalists to Follow: 20 industry thinkers, innovators and practitioners we recommend you get to know” in Quill magazine, published by the Society of Professional Journalists. She previously was publications coordinator for Investigative Reporters and Editors, where she oversaw website content, edited IRE publications and assisted advertisers. She worked as a copy editor and an interactive producer at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a producer for Tribune Interactive, a sports copy editor for the Marin (Calif.) Independent Journal, and was job and internship coordinator at the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism in San Francisco.
Jeff Porter, special projects director, AHCJ
Porter became AHCJ special projects director in 2008 after serving six years as the database library director for Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting. In that position, he conducted and directed data analysis for broadcast and print investigative projects, served as lead instructor for computer-assisted reporting boot camps, and provided journalism training across the United States and overseas. He also has served as a CAR instructor at the Missouri School of Journalism. Previously, he worked 20 years as an award-winning newspaper journalist, served as adjunct college faculty, and co-created and hosted a weekly radio program. His last newspaper job was at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where he served as CAR specialist, combining traditional investigative reporting techniques with advanced data analysis tools.
Cynthia Craft, director of engagement
Craft is the director of engagement for AHCJ, joining the organization after an extensive career in daily and magazine journalism, including a decade on the health care beat. She plays a key role in daily operations of the association including membership, outreach efforts and online resources. Craft most recently worked as a senior health writer and assistant metro editor at The Sacramento Bee, having also worked as an assistant metro editor and state capital correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, the state editor at the Dallas Times Herald and the editor of the California Journal. Her freelance articles have appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, California HealthLine, California Journal, The Industry Standard and Kaiser Health News. Craft is a graduate of several fellowships, including a Kaiser Family Foundation health journalism fellowship, AHCJ’s National Library of Medicine and Regional Health Journalism fellowships. As a Knight International Journalism fellow, she spent three years in Lima at the Universidad de Ciencias Aplicadas de Peru as a visiting professor. She has won several journalism awards, including sharing in spot news Pulitzer Prizes as a reporter and editor and a Sigma Delta Chi National Excellence in Public Service Award as a project editor. (@cynthiahcraft)
Core topic leaders
Joseph Burns (@jburns18), Insurance
Burns provides resources for AHCJ members to cover the complex and changing landscape of health insurance through blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other resources.
An independent journalist, Burns has been covering health care since 1991 and writes frequently about health policy and the business of health care for a variety of publications, including Hospitals & Health Networks, Managed Care magazine,Ophthalmology Management, and The Dark Report.
One of the founding editors of the Practice Options newsletters, Burns has edited books on health care and business strategies for Faulkner & Gray and Panel Publishers. From 1991 to 1994, he was editor-in-chief of Business & Health magazine and later was a contributing editor and author of a monthly column for Managed Healthcare Executive magazine. He was the founding editor of The Financial Manager, a magazine for accountants and other business strategists. Burns, based in Massachusetts, began his career as a newspaper reporter in Connecticut.
Tara Haelle (@tarahaelle), Medical Studies
Haelle guides journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enable them to translate the evidence into accurate information that their readers can grasp. Haelle is a freelance journalist and multimedia photographer who has particularly focused on medical studies over the past five years. She particularly specializes in reporting on vaccines, pediatrics, maternal health, obesity, nutrition and mental health. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, The Washington Post, Politico, Slate, NOVA, Wired and Science, and she writes regularly for HealthDay, Frontline Medical Communications, Forbes and her parenting science blog Red Wine & Apple Sauce. She’s co-writing an evidence-based parenting book due in April 2016.
Joanne Kenen (@joannekenen) Health Reform
Kenen, the health editor for Politico, is a Washington-based writer who specializes in health and health policy. She is leading an effort to provide resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of implementing health care reform. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, The Washington Post, Slate, the Washingtonian, Kaiser Health News, Health Affairs, Miller-McCune, the American Prospect, AARP Magazine and numerous other publications. She was the senior writer for the Health Policy Program at the New America Foundation, and a Kaiser Media Fellow in a 2006-7 , where she wrote extensively about palliative medicine, hospice, and aging. A longtime Reuters correspondent in New York, Florida/the Caribbean, and Washington, she has covered everything from voodoo festivals to U.S. presidential campaigns and she spent more than a decade covering health policy on Capitol Hill. Thanks to her particularly wakeful second son, she is co-author of a parenting book, “The Sleeplady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight.” Earlier in her career, she did a lot of reporting from Latin America, and co-authored a book on Costa Rica.
Mary Otto (@mottomatic), Oral Health
Otto is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist who began writing about oral health at The Washington Post, where she worked for eight years covering social issues, including health care and poverty. In 2007, she wrote the story of 12-year-old Deamonte Driver, a Maryland child covered by Medicaid who died after bacteria from a dental infection spread to his brain. The death of the boy spurred congressional hearings, a revamping of Maryland’s Medicaid dental system and increased attention to oral health access for Medicaid children nationwide. After leaving the Post in a newsroom downsizing, Otto spent an academic year as a 2009-10 Knight Science Journalism Fellow studying oral health and public health at Harvard University. Her ongoing exploration of barriers to dental care in poor communities has been assisted by a California Endowment Dennis A. Hunt Fund grant. Otto has continued to write about oral health and other health and social issues as a freelance writer for the Post, a contributing writer for an online publication for oral health professionals called DrBicuspid.com, and as the editor of Street Sense, a newspaper produced and sold by homeless men and women in Washington, D.C.
Liz Seegert (@lseegert), Aging
Seegert provides resources to help AHCJ members cover the complexities of aging by writing blog posts, tip sheets, articles and other resources. Her reporting and writing background spans more than 25 years in print, broadcast, and digital media. She covers an array of consumer and professional health topics, including wellness/prevention, chronic disease management, women’s health, aging, health policy and health IT. Seegert’s writing credits include Kaiser Health News, New America Media, Women magazine, Home Care Technology Report, The Atlantic online, Discovery Education, Kidshealth.org, and Healthwise Magazine. Seegert also has published in professional journals, including the Journal of Healthcare Information Management and Practical Diabetology. She is a regular contributor to the HealthCetera, blog and to the award-winning HealthStyles radio show (WBAI/Pacifica), both part of the Center for Health, Media and Policy at Hunter College, NYC, where she is also a Senior Fellow.
Bara Vaida (@barav), Infectious Diseases
Vaida is covering the complex and changing topic and helping journalists recognize emerging stories, understand the science of diseases, as well as prevention and cures. She has been a journalist for more than 25 years and a freelancer since 2011. She has worked for the National Journal, Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg News and has been a guest on numerous radio and television shows. Vaida has written extensively about health care policy and the Affordable Care Act as a contributing writer with Kaiser Health News. Her stories on the business and legal issues raised by health reform, as well as special interest influence on health care policy, have been published in the McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Politico, and the Washington Post. She recently wrote an in-depth report for CQ Researcher titled “Pandemic Threat: Is the world prepared for the next outbreak?”
Rebecca Vesely, Health Information Technology
Vesely is helping journalists understand and cover this fast-changing and increasingly important aspect of information technology in health care. Vesely started writing about health IT in the late 1990s as a reporter and then Washington bureau chief for Wired News. Since then, she has covered health care as a staff reporter for the Oakland Tribune, the Bay Area News Group and Modern Healthcare magazine. She was a founding editor of Business 2.0 magazine, chronicling the first dot com boom. She directed a short-lived but award-winning social media site for teen girls called ChickClick. She served as a contributing reporter to iHealthBeat.org and California Healthline, covering California health policy, telehealth and mobile health. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and she has penned guides on electronic prescribing and health information exchange for patients and providers.
Emily Willingham (@ejwillingham), Ph.D., Topic Leader/Social Determinants and Disparities
Willingham is a science journalist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and Forbes, among others. She is the author of “The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Guide to Your Child’s First Four Years” (2016), co-written with Tara Haelle.
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