A British university lecturer has been enlisted to help develop new international health journalism training as part of an EU co-funded initiative.

Dr John Lister, who teaches an MA in Health Journalism at Coventry University, will work on the Health Reporting Training project (HeaRT), which was initiated by Athens-based Institute of Preventive Medicine, Environmental and Occupational Health, Prolepsis.

Health journalists, professionals and academics from seven European Union member countries including Germany, Portugal and Romania will work for two years on researching current levels of training and produce and pilot training tools.

Workshops will be conducted in all partner countries and an online e-learning tool as well as an easy-to-use CD ROM will be developed and distributed across the EU.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Dr Lister said there are concerns that too much health journalism is carried out by journalists with "very little specialist training or background".

"The very patchy level of reporting on important issues such as our controversial health reforms in England, or the huge, expensive public panic over swine flu early in 2010 show that we really need more depth, knowledge and balance in health reporting if the public is to be properly informed," he added in a release.

"The HeaRT project has a benefit for everyone – public, patients, health workers and journalists alike. It's great to get it started."

The project will be seeking the views of health reporters in every sector of the media, within the participating EU countries.

"We already know we are the first project of this type, and we are very excited to be given this chance to help health journalists across Europe improve the quality of the information they can provide," project director Afroditi Veloudaki, from Prolepsis, added in the release.

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