What is Research?
Research is a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding. Health research is focused on ways to help people live long and healthy lives.
Health research can take place in a medical setting or in a community setting. Many people are familiar with “clinical trials” in which a new medicine or procedure is tested to see if it is more effective than an existing one. Research is also done on how to prevent disease through diet and exercise and on health programs, such as effective ways for people to stop smoking. Health research may also involve participating in a telephone survey or participating in a focus group.
Why is Research Important?
The purpose of research is to find new knowledge. The more scientists learn about health through research, the more they know about which drugs, behaviors, and other treatments work best for specific groups of people and which are effective for the whole population.
For example, if a doctor treats one patient and that patient gets better, that is important for that patient. In a research study, if 1,000 patients – both men and women, White, African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American – are treated with a new drug and the majority of them show improvement in their symptoms, then researchers have solid evidence that can be applied more broadly to everyone.
Listen to Dr. John Ruffin, Founding Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, on the importance of participating in research.
Transcript "We have to let people know that you are taking pills, for example, perhaps for your diabetes. Or you’re taking pills, perhaps for your hypertension. And keep in mind, that to get there, to get to that point to pop that pill that you took this morning, there were studies that were done on these conditions for these treatments to be available to you, okay? I’ll give you two examples. One, it could have been that the study can be generalized, in that what I took, worked this morning. And it could be that it worked for all three of us sitting at this table, right? That’s good. But it could also mean, and I’ve heard people say, that I took that, you know, “I took that medicine and it helped me.” And I’ve heard other people say “I took that medicine and it didn’t do any good at all. It didn’t help me at all. I didn’t get the same impact from it that he said he got from it.” Well, that means there are differences in us, in different people. And if you’re not included in that study or whatever, then we don’t know how to help you. So you’re going to get left out of interventions and you’re going to be left out of cutting edge research that could be very, very helpful to you if you’re not a participant in the process."
How has research made a difference in health or health care in the last century?