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Health Matters: by Brian Pearson, Devon Research Champion

brian pearson

Can 1.25 million people make a difference? Well, unsurprisingly, ‘yes’ – for that is the number of people - patients, carers, members of the general public – who, each year, contribute to healthcare research.

Forget the images often portrayed in the media of technicians peering down microscopes or clinicians poking, prodding or observing volunteers in isolation wards or new drugs being trialled. Of course, those procedures are aspects of some ongoing research programmes but a vast number of research projects rely on people submitting valuable information – both data and opinions – via questionnaires, keeping logs or journals or participating in interviews.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research funds, enables and delivers health and social care research across 31 specialties leading to improvements in health and wellbeing as well as promoting economic growth.

Ageing, Dementia, Diabetes, Mental Health, Primary Care, Social Care, Stroke are just a few examples of areas where research is producing changes in diagnosis treatments and ongoing care as well as a better understanding of common conditions.

Such research hit the headlines during and following the COVID pandemic.

The development of vaccines and effective anti-viral drugs relied heavily upon participants in research programmes but the research is continuing as people monitor the longer-term impact of both the condition and treatments.  A similar study (called Athena) is focusing on those suffering with shingles, exploring new ways to manage the debilitating pain associated with the condition.

Another major study is focusing on Dementia. Currently, there are a series of studies including those seeking to identify risk factors at an early stage where symptoms have been presented.

Frankly, the opportunities to be a part of – indeed a partner in – healthcare research are almost limitless. 1.25 million people can testify to this and you could join them.

Brian Pearson - Research Team Volunteer (NIHR and Symphony Healthcare Services)


The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.