Of all the reams of new health research published in academic journals each year, only a tiny sliver ever makes its way into the hands of regular people. And even then it can take a long time.
Christine Chambers, a pediatric pain researcher at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre, says it can take roughly 17 years for new research to trickle down into the hands of parents.
Tired of this scenario, she is helping launch an effort to change that.
Chambers has teamed up with the popular parenting website YummyMummyClub.ca. The goal is pluck important pediatric pain research out of academic obscurity and make it available to mothers and fathers.
"We researchers do a terrible job at making our science sound interesting," Chambers told CBC Radio's Mainstreet. "And that's where we need to work with people who have expertise in communications to try to make that happen."
It Doesn't Have to Hurt
A new campaign called It Doesn't Have to Hurt is launching next month with a panel discussion at the Halifax Central Library. YummyMummyClub.ca will also begin rolling out stories on the web and through social media, giving parents information about such things as child headaches and stomach pain.
For instance, as flu vaccine season approaches, the site will post advice on reducing pain and anxiety surrounding needles — tips based on sound research done by scientists.
Chambers says she really began to contemplate the "knowledge-to-action" gap when she had children. Like many other parents, she turned to the internet for advice. What surprised her, she says, is how little good quality information is out there.
She decided to try and package her own research in a fun way so non-scientists could grasp it. In November 2013, she produced a short video on reducing needle pain. It features a little girl giving suggestions and now has more than 144,000 hits on YouTube.
"But it took a huge amount of work for me to disseminate it and get it out there," Chambers says. "I guess I just thought that if I created it, parents would just come. And it doesn't work that way."
Study to evaluate effectiveness of new approach
What she did notice, however, is when the video was picked up by someone with a wide social media reach, there would be a bump in viewing numbers. That's when she decided to get in touch with Erica Ehm, the creator of YummyMummyClub.ca.
A few initial tweets back and forth led to deeper conversations. It led to a collaboration between the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research, where Chambers works, and YummyMummyClub.ca, the Canadian-based website that reaches more than five million people a month.
But it's not just about putting research online in a digestible way. Chambers and her team will also be documenting the reach of the campaign and evaluating its effectiveness.
"It's one thing to actually put information out there," she says. "It's another thing to know [whether] parents actually learn, will they use it, is it helpful."