Expanding access to clinical research

Help wanted

New CTSI initiatives focus on expanding access to clinical research

 By Claire Baralt

In November, UF’s HealthStreet program opened on the East Campus to assist people underrepresented in health services and health research.

Only about 2 percent of the U.S. population participates in clinical research studies, according to the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation. Many people might consider participating in research but don’t know how to find studies. At the same time, studies are sometimes forced to end because researchers cannot find enough participants.

“Broad and diverse participation in research is essential for us to understand how new options for preventing or treating diseases may affect different patients in different ways,” said David Nelson, M.D., director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Several initiatives supported by the CTSI are helping connect more people with information about UF research studies — both online and off.

For some, the quest for information begins online, whether it’s patients searching for studies related to a specific condition, health care providers looking for studies that might benefit their patients, or researchers trying to learn about studies that might impact their research or lead them to potential collaborators.

To streamline and expand access to information about UF research studies, in January the CTSI launched UF StudyConnect, a comprehensive and searchable listing of UF clinical research studies that are enrolling participants. As of Feb. 22, the site lists 384 studies.

The CTSI also provides access to ResearchMatch, a national registry of volunteers willing to learn more about research studies. An initiative of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award program, ResearchMatch includes more than 20,000 registered volunteers across the country, with more than 400 in Florida.

But not everyone has Internet access, and many people want a trusted community source who can help them understand their options for participating in research. That’s where HealthStreet comes in.

In November, HealthStreet opened at UF’s East Campus to assist people underrepresented in health services and health research. Led by Linda Cottler, Ph.D., M.P.H., chair of the UF Department of Epidemiology and co-director of the CTSI Community Engagement and Research Program, HealthStreet has a team of community health workers who go out into the community to interview Alachua County residents about their health and concerns. The HealthStreet team then connects residents to relevant medical and social services as well as opportunities to participate in research.