Monday, February 7, 2011

The Human Guinea Pig

I'm all for the advancement of science & I know research is the only way to translate theory into evidence to base policy changes on. So I devote some of my time to participating in various studies. I guess it's volunteer work of a sort, really. I've received the occasional bus fare or $5 Starbucks card for doing them, but it's largely altruism that drives me.

Today I went to UBC to do the fitness assessment before starting a study on postpartum physical fitness and body image. I was weighed, measured in height & waist circumference, grip strength & flexibility, filled out a PAR-Q, a survey on body image & some demographic information, then I had to speed-walk for six minutes & do as many push-ups as I could. I was randomly chosen to be in group A, so starting Monday, I'll be doing twice-weekly mom & baby fitness classes for ten weeks.

We & 5000 other families are also part of a national longitudinal study on infant/child health, called the CHILD Study. I was approached with information about the study at my 20-week ultrasound at BC Women's. I took home the pamphlets, then soon consented to participate, gave them some blood samples & filled out a million questionnaires on diet, home environment, stress, medications, activity level & I can't even remember what else. At Sprout's birth, we collected a few samples of Sprout's various bodily fluids for them. Oliver is also part of the study & after Sprout was born he went to their labs to do an allergy patch test & various types of breathing tests.

When Sprout was three months old, two researchers came to our house to collect another set of questionnaires & assess the house, taking samples of dust & looking at household chemicals, etc. I also provided more diaper samples from Sprout & a few mLs of breast milk. There will be three more visits when Sprout is a year, three years & five years old. We'll get the results of our asthma/allergy testing, plus they'd notify us if they found anything crazy in our blood--like high lead levels or something--but we won't get any other personal test information. 

On top of these two studies, I'm also participating in three hours' worth of research (required for 6% of my grade) for my Psychology class at SFU. That means participating in three to six separate research sessions conducted by grad students at the Burnaby campus. I've got one hour's worth out of the way already & will schedule in the rest soon.

Then there are the online surveys I do, as well as a focus group once or twice a year. The focus groups tend to pay well--$75-100 for a couple hours of my time, generally on a week night. While not exactly lucrative, over the years I've found a few online survey organizations that pay a little cash or points that can be transferred to cash or gift certificates. For less than 20 minutes of my time while I'm watching the news on TV or something, I get a buck or three.

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