Europe open letter education
To all European Ministers of Education; European Heads of Schools; European Teachers; and Parents.
Re.: Introduction to clinical research as part of the school education for all European school pupils for three consecutive years around the ages of 14, 15, and 16 years.
As a coalition of patient organisations, physicians, health researchers, and health journalists we are concerned that public general knowledge about clinical research is very sparse, and virtually absent about why independent randomised clinical trials are needed. Most people will encounter clinical research for the first time when they or relatives are invited to participate in randomised clinical trials or other types of clinical research. This invitation often follows devastating news of the diagnosis of a serious health problem. We propose that steps should be taken to equip European citizens with information and understanding which will help them deal effectively with the challenges in such situations. We want patients and their relatives to become better equipped to withstand the blows of a serious diagnosis followed by an invitation to participate in clinical research designed to deal with uncertainties about the relative merits of alternative management strategies.
We propose that all schools introduce as part of their curriculum, three 2-day education workshops on the theme of clinical research over three consecutive years. The education should be provided before high-school as part of the curriculum for pupils around 14 to 16 years old, and be implemented from the educational year 2015 to 2016. Local rules could require other ways to introduce clinical research into the curriculum.
The three 2-day workshops should become increasingly complex, but they should always aim to ensure basic understanding of the reasons why diagnostic, prognostic, therapeutic, and care decisions need to be based on reliable evidence; recognition of sources of bias and the development over time of methods to avoid these; and the rationale for independent clinical research.
We have a number of ideas for topics and materials that can be used for such educational workshops, encompassing material and tools from the ECRAN project (http://ecranproject.eu/); Testing Treatments interactive (http://www.testingtreatments.org/); The James Lind Library (http://www.jameslindlibrary.org/); The Cochrane Collaboration (http://www.cochrane.org/); The Cochrane Library (http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/view/0/index.html); and ECRIN (http://www.ecrin.org/). We would be happy to contribute to a more detailed curriculum for the European pupils. We would also suggest scientific assessments of the educational tools’ effects on knowledge.
A well prepared European population will make the population more open to clinical research through understanding the necessities and complexities of clinical research. That would help all European citizens, including the health sciences, healthcare systems, and the drug and device industries.