Why young people shaping research are encouraging others to have a say
Since its set up in 2017, NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility’s (CRF) young person’s research advisory group VoiceUp, has recruited over 70 members aged 11-24 from across Greater Manchester, to help inform research. Here, VoiceUp members Lucy and Adam share their experiences and encourage other young people to join in.
I joined VoiceUp after seeing it advertised at an NHS careers fair. I thought it seemed interesting because it offered the chance to work alongside professional researchers and I hoped that my involvement would allow me to give something back to the NHS.
I wanted to join VoiceUp because I believe it’s important that young people have a say in healthcare and I wanted to be a part of that. If anyone else wants to get involved I would definitely recommend it.
Joining has provided me with many exciting opportunities that I’ve been keen to take. I’ve attended meetings to help improve healthcare research by speaking directly to researchers about what research matters to people my age and coming up with ‘top tips’ on how they should work with other young people like me. I’ve also been able to work with fellow volunteers who share my interests, and make new friends.
My personal highlight was being invited to take part in designing a poster to inform people about the group which was to be displayed at the UK CRF Network Conference in Leeds. I was proud to represent the group, and it was fun to brainstorm ideas about how best to display the information; to make it eye catching and professional-looking. Seeing the final version was really cool, especially with all our names listed on it as authors, and we all loved the finished product.
I was then invited to attend the conference to discuss the poster with other attendees in the breaks between sessions. I had no idea what to expect as I’d never been to anything like it before, and thought it might even be a bit scary having to present to professional researchers from all over the UK. But when the day came I thoroughly enjoyed it – lots of people said they liked the poster and were interested in our group, and I had fun at all the different sessions that were on offer (although some of the technical terms went slightly over my head!). All in all I thought it was a great experience; I learned a lot about how clinical research is carried out in the UK and it definitely made me want to learn more about this fascinating area and to continue getting involved with research in the future.
I joined VoiceUp because of an advert that I saw at my school. I was very excited to see that I could be involved in research because that’s what I aspire to do in the future.
Attending the meetings in Manchester I realised that there are other people out there with the same desire to get involved and it’s been really amazing to speak with experts and be free to share my own opinion. Having explored the structure of healthcare research in the UK I’ve learnt how important it is to have involvement from many different groups and young people are no exception – we have a lot to offer in terms of making healthcare more accessible and easier to understand to the general public. In addition, we’ve grown up in an age of digital technology and we know how to use it. Young people are the future and more of us need to get involved now in what will aid our generation in the years to come – it just makes sense!
One of the amazing opportunities that I have been given through VoiceUp is attending the UK CRF Conference. It was great to see the VoiceUp poster for the first time and it definitely stood out because of its vibrancy.
The topic of Imaging and Digital Technologies was very relevant and intriguing – I especially enjoyed the talk on vascular imaging. It’s now possible to measure the volume of blood in someone’s hand without even touching it! Furthermore, the prospect of Big Data also seemed very exciting.
The highlight of the day had to be the play that we watched by a group called Theatre of Debate who go around schools teaching dental health in a fun and accessible way. The storyline was about a teenage girl with a dental disease and the various struggles she faces in day-to-day life. I actually learnt a lot from it like the fact that if a tooth falls out you should immediately put it back in and go to the hospital or if this isn’t possible to put it in a glass of milk! It was also quite relevant to VoiceUp because the play itself was borne out of working with young people to develop the story and this showed because it was very emotive and well-tailored for young people.
I’m so glad that I joined this group because I actually feel as though I am having a positive impact on healthcare. I would strongly encourage anyone with an interest in healthcare or just a desire to help others – to join this group!
Watch Adam introduce VoiceUp in this short film led by Great Ormond Street Hospital – one of a series of films shining a spotlight on the bright future of children’s research.
Find out more about joining VoiceUp by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org