CHICAGO – Nine top universities and hospitals have launched a social movement and free tool to match the public with health research opportunities that need volunteers in the hunt to discover treatments, vaccines, and what the pandemic’s long-term impacts will be on survivors.
“One of the biggest slowdowns in doing health research is finding the people to participate,” said Julian Solway, MD, Dean for Translational Medicine at the University of Chicago. “We’re in the fight of our lifetimes, and the world needs more answers faster than ever as our teams race to find COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.”
COVID-19 has infected more than 1.7 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 101,000 individuals. Little is known about the virus, and scientists have created more than 1,600 clinical trials to search for answers and cures. But those trials cannot take place without volunteers participating in them.
“Clinical trials literally can’t happen without the engagement of the general public,” said Donald Lloyd-Jones, MD, ScM, Director of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences (NUCATS) Institute. “The scientists could be the best in the world and the study could be extremely promising, but a clinical trial cannot take place without people volunteering to join. We’re calling for volunteers to help fight COVID-19 and other diseases.”
The New Normal (TNN)™ movement will increase public awareness of health research and make it easy to access jargon-free information about studies on topics people care about the most. The tool, called TNN Match, removes the headache of trying to translate complex medical terms and guess if you’re a good fit for a study. Instead, it matches people with health research that needs volunteers – all in an approachable tone and on a mobile-friendly platform.
“Researchers are often fluent in a scientific language that the rest of the world doesn’t understand,” said Sara Serritella, Director of The New Normal™ movement. “TNN breaks down communication barriers and engages local communities, patients, scientists, and local and national experts to make health research accessible for everyone at a time when human health needs human help more than ever.”
People sign up once and can express interest in and match with research opportunities, saving both the public and scientists time and money trying to find each other in a health research world that is primarily online because of COVID-19. TNN Match also includes studies unrelated to COVID-19, so people can help advance the causes they already care about, like cancer, diabetes, and more. There are even studies people can do from the comfort of home.
“TNN Match has something for everyone, whether you’re healthy or sick,” said Robin J. Mermelstein, PhD, Co-Director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “The health care people receive today is based on the research of yesterday, so humanity in general benefits from health research findings.”
The New Normal™ movement is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and made possible through the collaboration of nine top hospitals and universities: The University of Chicago, Rush University, Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, NorthShore University Health System, Illinois Institute of Technology, Advocate Health Care, and the University of Michigan.
More than $1.5 million and 10 years of user-centered design have gone into the tool, and it’s now available to the public and researchers for free to team up in the fight against COVID-19 and more.
“We are truly gratified to see the technology we built help people come together during this major public health crisis,” said George A. Mashour, M.D., Ph.D., Director of MICHR. “This innovation will help accelerate research as we work to overcome this pandemic.”
About The New Normal™ Movement