You hear about new medical research breakthroughs in the news almost every day. But how do these research trials work, and is there a way you could help make a difference?
In Kentucky, UK HealthCare is part of an academic medical center that has a thriving research community. Medical advances are frequently made in a wide variety of health care disciplines. By participating in a research-based clinical trial, you can play a more active role in your health care and gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available.
Types of studies
Medical research, also called clinical research, is the study of health and illness in people. It is the way our society learns how best to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness. Clinical research is done to find out:
• What new drugs, devices, and other treatments work and don’t work.
• What causes disease.
• What prevents disease and improves health.
Clinical trials are studies that test a method of treating or preventing disease. Studies are designed to answer specific questions about possible new treatments or new ways of using existing or known treatments. Clinical trials are done to determine whether new drugs or treatments are safe and effective. This can be a new drug, vaccine, vitamin, device, or a health behavior change. Clinical trials are usually for people with a specific disease or risk of a disease, although healthy participants sometimes are needed.
Observational studies simply monitor people over time to find and compare changes in their health. Both healthy volunteers and those with a health problem can usually take part in observational research studies.
Should you volunteer?
People volunteer for research studies for different reasons—to learn more about their own health or medical condition, or to help researchers develop new treatments. Others, especially those with chronic or life-threatening diseases, volunteer to test new treatments or therapies.
There are many things to consider before deciding to volunteer for a study. Before enrolling, you should understand the purpose of the study, the risks and benefits of participating, the medical procedures involved, the time commitment required, and the costs and whether your insurance will cover them.
The power of one can make a difference by becoming part of the effort to understand health and treat disease. While today’s medical science knows a lot about how to treat and prevent disease, much remains to be learned.
For women, especially, the need is critical because medical research now tells us there are important differences in how some diseases and treatments affect men and women. These differences are now widely recognized as key factors in understanding how our bodies work and fight disease. Today, researchers need women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to participate in studies.
The Kentucky Women’s Health Registry Survey is an important way women in the state can help researchers understand these differences. This survey will help researchers gain more and better knowledge about women’s health issues in Kentucky. The survey can be taken online at www.mc.uky.edu/womenshealth or a survey can be mailed to you by calling (800) 929-2320.
More information about research
ClinicalTrials.gov provides regularly updated information nationally about federally and privately supported clinical research in human volunteers. It also provides information about a trial’s purpose, who may participate, locations, and phone numbers for more details. Go to ClinicalTrials.gov for more information.
For more information about research opportunities at UK HealthCare, go to www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/research.
Consider making a contribution by learning how you can participate in a study that may provide life-saving information. Your body is a key source of information, and sharing that information is something only you can do.