The Project

Why such a Project?

Media play a key role when it comes to health, by:

- informing the general public about health,
- maintaining important issues on the public agenda, and
- promoting health literacy.

Journalists reporting on health can influence health related behaviors of patients, clinicians and policy makers (Dentzer, 2009). However, as research also shows, there is a lack of specialized training and understanding of the scientific subjects' complexities, that can result in reporting inaccurate or inadequate health information (Smith, 2008;Dentzer, 2009) and, hence, posing a risk of creating false ideas and negatively influencing policy makers (Voss, 2002). In a recent survey, only 18% of the journalists had specialized training, while only 6.4% reported that a majority of their readers change health behaviors based on their reporting (Smith, 2008).

Previous EU initiatives indicate that journalists recognize their need for training. However, specialized training opportunities appear to be limited. As shown by the European Guide to Science Journalism Opportunities (2008), training in countries e.g. Portugal and Finland is scarce, while in others e.g. Greece it does not exist. Furthermore, a large amount of science coverage in EU focuses on what is being conducted in the US (Messenger, 2006). In an effort to answer these needs HeaRT will:

- identify and make easily accessible all existing training opportunities on health reporting
- develop new training tools
- conduct courses in several European countries
- build an informative web site to serve as an EU health journalism platform and a valuable resource
- organize European conference and info-days

Health reporting training is necessary because:

media affect the public's health behavior
policy makers listen to and are affected by media
government priorities and spending patterns influence media agenda and public behavior in mutually reinforcing ways.