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New portal links British Columbians with COVID-19 studies

Last Updated Sep 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm PDT

The Reach BC website connects people with health researchers. (Courtesy Reach BC)

Reach BC helps the general public participate in health research

COVID-19 accounts for one third of studies on the platform

Drug and vaccine trials likely to come to Reach BC

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbians who feel they’ve been stuck on the sidelines in the fight against COVID-19 now have an easy way to lend a hand.

Reach BC, created by the BC Support Unit, which includes several health agencies, is a new portal that helps the public connect with researchers looking for study participants.

“It benefits both the public and health researchers in order to advance their research findings faster and more efficiently,” project manager Stefanie Cheah said.

The platform was in development for three years before the pandemic prompted it to open ahead of schedule in April, she said.

After focusing on informing researchers of Reach BC in its first few months online, the platform now has 30 projects looking for participants. Now, Cheah said, the focus is on promoting it to the general public.

She said 800 people have signed up so far but she hopes to see tens of thousands follow.

About a third of the studies posted on the website are related to the novel coronavirus. Researchers are looking for people to fill out surveys about their mental health while working from home, how they’re keeping in touch with family while separated and how the pandemic has changed plans for their old-age care.

Another study aims to “understand if physical activity and fitness levels influence the number of symptoms, durations of symptoms, severity of symptoms, and any complications associated with having the COVID-19 virus.”

While there are no drug or vaccine trials posted on Reach BC at the moment, Cheah said some are in earlier stages of development and likely to come to the platform soon.

Some of the studies offer modest compensation, such as draws for gift cards, but Cheah said that’s not the main draw for participants.

“The main reason why people would help out is altruistic,” she said, noting many people are feeling “hopeless” and looking for ways to help.

“Some people are stuck at home and can’t go to work, but this is something that can tangibly help the researchers get the answers they need to help find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19,” Cheah said.