While we might notice that a medicine’s label says 'for adults ages 18-55’ or 'do not take with grapefruit,’ for example, we’ve probably never thought about how researchers study medicines or discover which medical practices were best and for whom.

Grounding procedure

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains: “Clinical trials are research studies exploring whether a medical strategy, treatment or device is safe and effective for humans. These studies also may show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people.” None of this knowledge would be possible without research volunteers.

"You do not have to be a certain age or be sick to participate in research. Studies are open to volunteers of all ages."

Who can and should participate in research? The answer is everyone. Our country is very diverse. If people like us don’t participate in research, then the results of research may not apply to people like us. It is important that we learn more about treatment and prevention options in all types of people to ensure the best health outcomes for everyone.

More involvement

It is also important that we learn as rapidly as possible. Answers are often delayed because of the time it takes to find research volunteers.

You do not have to be a certain age or be sick to participate in research. Studies are open to volunteers of all ages. Some studies are as simple as answering a short questionnaire about diet, behavior or growth. Other studies may look more in-depth at a person’s genetic makeup, environment and health outcomes or require doctor visits to follow a person’s medical condition over time.

Where to turn

Volunteers can register to learn about research opportunities online—some sites will send alerts based on personal characteristics, describing studies of potential interest. In addition, clinicaltrials.gov maintains a database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies where you can learn about opportunities to participate in a clinical trial by entering key terms related to medical conditions, treatments or personal characteristics into the search feature.

There are also opportunities to help design clinical trials in partnership with researchers, which are most commonly offered by health advocacy organizations or doctors working at academic medical centers.

The bottom line is that research needs us! In order to more rapidly answer questions that improve and save lives, researchers need people and data to study and each of us are eligible to provide it. Please take the time to check out your options online, or ask your doctor about how you can volunteer to get involved with research.

Leanne Madre, Director of Strategy, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative
Bray Patrick-Lake, Director of Stakeholder Engagement, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative
Pamela Tenaerts, Executive Director, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative
Matthew Harker, Associate Director of Projects, Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative