About AHCJ: General News

Foundations support launch of Midwest Health Journalism Program Date: 05/31/07

May 29, 2007
Contact: Len Bruzzese, AHCJ executive director, 573-884-5606

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COLUMBIA, Mo. - A consortium of six health foundations in Kansas and Missouri has pledged $724,739 to establish the Midwest Health Journalism Program, an annual fellowship program for reporters and editors from both states.

The program involves a cooperative effort among the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Kansas Health Institute and the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Kansas.

The aim of the program is to provide already-established journalists with the tools needed to improve the depth and amount of coverage focused on critical state and local health issues. The result should be a better-educated public and more accountability for policymakers, say the program planners.

AHCJ, based at the Missouri School of Journalism, will conduct the training program through its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. The Kansas Health Institute will administer the grant and coordinate overall planning and marketing efforts, while the University of Kansas will evaluate the training project and its results.

Midwest Health Journalism ProgramThe funding organizations include The Kansas Health Foundation, Wichita, Kan.; The Sunflower Foundation, Topeka, Kan.; The United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, Hutchinson, Kan.; the REACH Healthcare Foundation, Merriam, Kan.; the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City, Kansas City, Mo.; and the Missouri Foundation for Health, St. Louis.

"The funding foundations jointly agreed that a formal training program was urgently needed given the increasing importance of the health policy discussion at the state and national levels," said Jim McLean, the Kansas Health Institute's vice president of public affairs.

KHI is an independent, nonprofit health policy and research organization that conducts research and policy analysis on issues that affect the health of Kansans.

"We're very excited that the funders saw the potential in advanced training for journalists and what it could mean for the residents of both states," said Len Bruzzese, executive director of the Association of Health Care Journalists.

The program will begin in the coming weeks with selection of the first year's class of five fellows from each state, Bruzzese said. The fellows will be able to tap AHCJ's many resources, while also attending several special training events and conferences over the coming year.

AHCJ is an independent, nonprofit membership organization of more than 1,000 health reporters and editors across the United States and in 15 other nations. Along with its Center for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, it is dedicated to advancing public understanding of health care issues and improving the quality, accuracy and visibility of health reporting, writing and editing.

The effectiveness of such mid-career training in health and health policy will be assessed by a team of researchers under the direction of Professor Rick Musser at KU's journalism school.

"We are particularly interested in comparing fellows' health reporting skills before and after training and evaluating changes in coverage following this specialized training," said Musser, who heads KU's News and Information Track.

An advisory board has been set up to assist in fellow selection and with media topic concerns. Board members include Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association; Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association; Brian Steffens, executive director of the National Newspaper Association; J. Schafer, news director of Kansas Public Radio; and Steve Roling, president and CEO of The Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.