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Doctors Don’t Talk to Their Patients about Participating in Research

94 Percent of Americans Surveyed Say Their Doctor Has Never Talked to Them about Taking Part in Any Type of Medical Research Study

WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 13, 2008) — An overwhelming number of Americans, 94 percent, say their doctor has never talked to them about participating in any type of medical research according to a new survey released today during National Women’s Health Week by the Society for Women’s Health Research, a national non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C.

“Research is the lifeblood of our health care system,” said Sherry Marts, Ph.D., vice president of scientific affairs for the Society for Women’s Health Research. “Our ability to improve care, develop new treatments and find cures depends on research and our participation both as healthy volunteers and those with a specific disease or condition.”

In the survey of 2,000 U.S. adults 18 and older, more than one-quarter of women did not know that there are opportunities for healthy individuals to take part in medical research. A significantly higher number of men knew such opportunities were available.

“Historically, research participation opportunities have been marketed to men more widely,” Marts said. “It is important for women to know that they can play an important role in research, even if they are healthy. Research studies regularly need healthy volunteers who can provide valuable information as we try to understand what’s going on with patients experiencing a medical problem.”

Less than 10 percent of survey respondents said they have ever participated in a medical research study.  Desires to advance medicine and help others with a disease were the two top reasons people list for why they participated.  More than 70 percent of those who have participated in research said they would definitely or probably participate again if asked.

Individuals surveyed provided three leading reasons for why they would be hesitant to participate in research: they do not have the time; they think it is too dangerous; or they are not interested.

“Surveys consistently show that individuals who take part in research find it to be a positive, valuable and rewarding experience,” Marts said. “We have to do a better job of talking to individuals about the positives of participating in research and addressing their concerns. Many studies pose little or no risk to the participants.”

Women in the survey were significantly more likely than men to say they are too old or not healthy enough to participate in research. “That finding reflects the difficulty of getting older women involved in research,” Marts said. “Women 65 and older are among the fasting growing segments of our population and we have very little health research data on them.  This lack of information is an area of great need and growing concern.”

The Society released the survey results on “Sex Differences in Health Awareness Day,” a national health observance that draws attention to the need for more research into how diseases and treatments affect women and men differently. The survey of 2,028 U.S. adults 18 and older was conducted by International Communications Research of Media, Pa., April 23-May 4, through a telephone survey.

The Society for Women's Health Research was founded in 1990 to bring national attention to the need for the appropriate inclusion of women in major medical research studies. Before the Society was established, women were excluded from most major studies. The Society has a public education campaign called “Some Things Only a Woman Can Do,” which provides women with information about volunteering for medical research.  Information in both English and Spanish is available on the campaign Web site: http://www.womancando.org/. Specific information for minorities and older women is also available.


View topline survey results from the "Survey of U.S. Adults on Clinical Research Participation."

Karen Young
Society for Women’s Health Research
(202) 496-5001 


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