UC Berkeley Receives Federal Grant To Fund Educational Program

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Part of President Bush's recent $2.9 billion bioterrorism initiative went to the UC Berkeley School of Public Health yesterday.

The federal grant of $2.8 million will fund a program educating the public on bioterrorism and infectious disease outbreaks. It will be distributed over a period of three years.

The new Center for Infectious Disease Preparedness, established by the School of Public Health and the Graduate School of Journalism, will educate public health workers, journalists and law enforcement officers to effectively alert the public of any bioterrorist attacks or infectious disease outbreaks.

"They need to learn to communicate accurately and honestly and to learn what the risks are so as not to create hysteria," said Arthur Reingold, an epidemiology professor at UC Berkeley and principle investigator of the grant.

The project also includes collaboration with local and statewide organizations and will focus on natural disease outbreaks like the West Nile virus, as well as bioterrorism.

"This is our connection to the community," said Steve Shortell, the dean of the School of Public Health. "It's a prime example of moving from public education to public action."

Although Reingold said the focus will be education of public health workers, educating members of the media will also be a very integral part of the project.

"Journalists need to know how to accurately and best explain these things so you don't have chaos," said Linda Neuhauser, a UC Berkeley clinical professor of epidemiology.

New courses at the Graduate School of Journalism will soon teach journalists how to explain technical information surrounding disease outbreaks to inform the public accurately.

"The media has done a reasonably good job with (informing the public)," said John Swartzberg, a clinical professor in the School of Public Health. But there is still a great need to improve communication between the media and the public, added Swartzberg, an infectious disease specialist.

The center will eventually provide public health workers and police officers with intensive courses across California and Nevada.

Reingold said he hopes the funding will attract a number of bioterrorism and disease experts to supplement the faculty.

Reingold said he also hopes to get information out to community colleges and high schools.


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