Pills, potions and pongs

Young people want to be involved in clinical research and they have valuable contributions to make. Significant efforts have been made to work with older children in medicines research and development, and initiatives such as GenerationR reach children as young as 8; generally speaking though, few resources and initiatives target younger children.

imageProfessor Hallux’s Miraculous Medicines, a new series of seven 3-minute podcasts produced by me and Fun Kids Radio (with advice from GenerationR, Nuffield Council on Bioethics, young people and scientists), addresses this gap, inspiring 7-12 year olds and their families to think about clinical research. The podcasts explore the what, how and why behind medicines research, and the importance of inclusive conversations. Featuring pills, potions and pongs, journeying via Ancient Egypt, Rome and the modern day, Professor Hallux, Nurse NanoBot and Body set about finding a new medicine for Body’s tummy ache. Fun and informative, the podcasts are broadcast nationally and are free to download to listen at home, in the classroom, healthcare settings and as part of informal learning activities.

We hope that the podcasts stand alone as entertaining listening for children and their families. We’re also particularly interested in how they might be used to support the active involvement of children in clinical research. For example, my local Children’s Clinical Research Facility already has an impressive portfolio of activities to engage younger children with research, including dedicated play specialists to help understand what’s going on, information sheets about each study written specifically for younger age groups, a whole raft of trust- and relationship-building activities; not to mention brand-spanking new treatment and chill-out rooms, co-designed with young people, and featuring their artwork and a ‘roof garden’ with changeable lighting. Currently, however, there is no formal way of actively involving young people and children in designing, planning and carrying out research. We are committed to changing that, as part of the Facility’s future plans, and hope to use the Fun Kids Radio podcasts as stimuli for conversations and collaborations with young people and children.

What’s clear already, is that listening audiences are incredibly interested in young children and research. In the first two weeks of broadcast, Professor Hallux’s podcasts have been viewed over 3,000 times – this is about 25% more than average views for other Fun Kids pages in a similar time period. My colleagues at Fun Kids nearly fell off their chairs at this number (unfortunately, I wasn’t quick-witted enough to record this for comedy sound effects). And over 600 parents have opted in to being contacted by us in the future about children and clinical research.

Please listen to the podcasts here. Please spread the word about them. I would be delighted to know what you think about them – good or bad! – as well as whether they might be useful to you and how. You can drop me a line below or at bella.starling@cmft.nhs.uk.

Happy Listening!