Medical Research Is Looking For Your Kid
November 27, 2013

Many Parents Unaware About Medical Research Opportunities For Their Children

Alan McStravick for - Your Universe Online

[ Watch the Video: Two-Thirds of Parents Unaware Of Medical Research Opportunities ]

A recent poll shows that roughly 44 percent of parents polled claimed they would enroll their child into medical research involving the testing of new medications or vaccines if their child suffered from the disease being studied. That figure jumped to over 75 percent when the research being conducted involved questions on mental health or diet and nutrition. So why is it only five percent of parents claim they have signed their children up for medical research?

It’s a no-brainer that children’s healthcare can only improve through medical research. The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which surveyed 1,420 parents with a child or children between birth and 17 years of age, claims awareness of medical research opportunities accounts for the low percentage of participants. Greater than 66 percent of parents polled stated they were not aware of research opportunities for their children. In fact, the poll shows parents who are aware of medical research opportunities are far more likely to have their children take part.

“Children have a better chance of living healthier lives because of vaccinations, new medications and new diagnostic tests. But we wouldn’t have those tools without medical research,” says Matthew M. Davis, MD, MAPP, director of the National Poll on Children’s Health and professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the University of Michigan Health System.

“With this poll, we wanted to understand parents’ willingness to allow their children to participate in medical research. The good news is that willingness is far higher than the current level of actual engagement in research. This means there is great opportunity for the medical research community to reach out to families and encourage them to take part in improving medical care.”

As mentioned above, the poll differentiated between types of studies and found the willingness of the parents to allow their children to participate was affected by this differentiation. Studies aimed at nutrition and mental illnesses were more positively favored by the parents. However, parents were more reticent about subjecting their children to studies which involved exposure to new medicines or vaccines.

This poll specifically targeted the level of participation by children in medical research since 2007. Over the previous 5 years, the proportion of families where the children have actually taken part in medical research has basically remained unchanged. The figure was four percent in 2007. In both last year’s results and the results reported this year, that figure was only at five percent.

“Five percent of families with children participating may not be enough to support important research efforts that the public has identified in previous polls – things like cures and treatments for childhood cancer, diabetes and assessing the safety of medications and vaccines,” says Davis, who also is professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“But the results indicate that a much bigger percentage of the public does understand the importance of medical research to advancing healthcare for children.”

Though parents in the poll claim they would be willing to allow their children to participate in studies, researchers are too often at a loss of obtaining a significant sample size that could lead to a real difference in healthcare discoveries. If the poll is to be believed, it seems the medical research community needs to focus as much energy on marketing their studies as they do carrying them out.

“This poll shows that the research community needs to step up and find ways to better reach parents about opportunities for children to participate, answer parents’ questions about benefits and risks of participation, and potentially broaden the types of studies available,” Davis says.