Health Training Program Has Impact on Journalists, Researchers Report at Atlanta Health Conference

The Knight Public Health Journalism Boot Camp and the Knight Public Health Journalism Fellowship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped journalists understand how complex health issues are and how important is to make sure they cover these issues accurately, according to a study conducted at the University of Georgia.

The Knight Programs at the CDC also help health experts to better understand what media want and how journalists work when they report health issues, according to the study, undertaken by researchers in the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research. The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The researchers recommended that the CDC and other health organizations create a network of journalists who have been trained in these programs and use their skills if a health crisis situation occurs at the regional or national level.

A summary of a Cox Center research project was presented in March through a poster presentation at the Health Communication and Social Change Session of the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases held in Atlanta. The conference ran from February 29 and March 3, 2004.

The organizers of the conference were the CDC, the American Society for Microbiology, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the World Health Organization.

The authors of the presentation, "Evaluation of Training to Help Journalists Cover Public Health," were Dr. Lee B. Becker, Cox Center director, Dr. Tudor Vlad, Cox Center assistant director, and John Ward, M.D., director of the Office of Scientific and Health Communications at the CDC.

The evaluation conducted by the Cox Center during January-August 2003 examined the impact of the Knight Public Health Journalism Boot Camp and Knight Public Health Journalism Fellowship at the CDC on all the 18 participants in the 2002 programs and on their media organizations. This research project was supported by a research contract with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, Florida, which funds the program at the CDC.

The poster presentation described the background, the methodology, the findings, and the conclusions of the evaluation. Dr. Vlad responded to participants who asked details about the Knight health programs and the methodology of evaluation.

Among the participants who expressed their interest in the research project and about the methodology of evaluation were health experts and communicators from China, Norway, Ghana, Romania, Great Britain and Japan. Journalists from Knight Ridder newspapers and from the Atlanta Journal Constitution also talked with Dr. Vlad about the research.