Healthy families blog

An informed decision, why participate in research?

Believe it or not, at least one aspect of your life is informed by research. Whether it is a medication you take daily, a program you are participating in or if you are aiming to eat more fruits and vegetables – all of these decisions have been informed by research.
But have you ever participated in research? Think back to a time when you completed a survey or maybe you trialled a product and reviewed it. Or maybe you came across an advertisement asking for volunteers for a study and wondered, what is in it for me?
How do you decide whether or not to participate in research?

What is research?
Research may be defined as the generation of new information, knowledge, possibly facts.

Why do we conduct research?
In health, we may conduct research to:

  • Identify health problems and their causes
  • Treat or manage health problems
  • Inform health recommendations or guidelines
  • Monitor health problems

Why do we need people to participate in research?
We need people to participate in research so we can understand real-life problems and generate real-life solutions.

How do I decide if I should participate in research?

When deciding if you should participate in research, it is very important to consider what is required of you during the study, as well as the benefits and risks of participating. This information will be outlined in the study’s Participant Information Sheet.

For some studies, the benefits of participating may be obvious. You may receive prize incentives, including monetary rewards, free resources (e.g. products, program, service), or information about your health. It is important to weigh up these benefits against any risks or inconveniences (e.g. time needed to participate) associated with participating in a study.

In other research studies, there may not be any direct benefits for you as an individual. However, results from these studies will more broadly benefit a population or system. For example, you may be asked to complete a survey about your health. You do not gain anything personally from completing the survey, but before you dismiss this as waste of time, consider what the information might be used for. It may be used to increase health funding in different areas of the population, or identify areas of need for additional services.

Ultimately, the decision to participate is up to you.
By understanding the benefits and risks associated with research, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether you want to participate or not. This is what we refer to as Informed Consent. All research studies are required to obtain informed consent from participants before they start the research.
Whether you see direct benefits for yourself or not, research participation is key to improving the health of our population. The most important thing when deciding to participate in research is, to be informed about what the research involves and the benefits and risk to you as a participant.

Written by Diana Zhu – PhD Candidate, Nutrition Dietetics and Food, Monash University

Currently our Better Health Program is available and free for all Victorian families with children aged 7-13 years in partnership with Monash University.
To find out more visit https://betterhealthprogram.org/online-program/ or call 1300 822 953.

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