Medical research is vital to the advancement of health care, but many medical research studies have too few people who participate. A new study from the University of Michigan takes an in-depth look at public participation in medical research across the United States.
Through a unique, nationally representative survey of 2,150 households in 2011, University of Michigan researchers found that only 11% of adults and 5% of children had ever participated in medical research. The study was published in January in Clinical and Translational Science.
About 11 percent of adults of all ages equals about 20 million research participants and 5 percent of children equals about 3 million, says the study's lead author Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., an associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School.
"Our study indicates that public awareness of opportunities, and the match of research needs with potential participant characteristics, potentially limit enrollment," says Davis, who is also associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
"Researchers and institutions need to spread the word more effectively, to help people know about research opportunities that are a good fit for them," says Davis. "When institutions reach out to communities to hear and understand their needs, and then respond with resources, ideas and opportunities, that's what we call engagement in research.
"When research institutions engage effectively with the public, that's when the public can benefit in tremendous ways from the research to which they contribute," says Davis.
Davis and his colleagues found that 64% of adults said they were aware of opportunities to participate in medical research, while only 12% of parents said they were aware of opportunities for their children to participate.
According to the study, race/ethnicity was not related to whether adults or children had participated or were aware of research opportunities, says the study's senior author Deb Gipson, M.D., M.S., associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases. This is quite important as health care needs to be effective for all of our citizens.