Earlier this year we began working with Genomics England to promote their unique Covid-19 genetic research study. Unexpectedly, it also became our remit to not only create coverage, but by doing so drive up the number of volunteers signing up to take part.
The nation-wide study is looking at why some people get severely ill with the virus requiring hospitalisation whilst others have a milder illness and don’t get admitted to hospital. It involves ‘matching’ a severe participant to a mild participant in terms of their age, gender and ethnic background.
The project came with a particular challenge – to engage with and drive awareness of the study with minority and ethnic communities – as a series of local ‘pop up’ blood donation centres were launched in cities across the country.
Adopting an intensely local approach, from Edinburgh to Exeter we contacted regional authorities, religious organisations, relevant community social media groups and local organisations to help spread the word. At the same time, we also pitched the story to local newspapers and radio and television stations.
Overall, we generated in excess of 100 pieces of media coverage, with stories on the BBC Asian Network, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC London News and STV – all of which resulted in the number of people volunteering to take part in the study climbing by the thousands. BBC London News alone generated over 300 registrations to the website!
With the study’s results due out soon we’ll provide an update when we secure coverage for the roll-out of the findings.
We’ve also been helping with another exciting Genomics England initiative – seeing what the public think of the NHS introducing whole genome sequencing (WGS) as a new test for babies. At the moment all newborns have a blood spot test (the heel-prick test) looking for nine rare but serious conditions, whereas with WGS they could be screened for up to 600 conditions where there is a potential early life intervention.
Genomics England has held preliminary public consultations to find out how much support the proposal has and what guidelines would need to be established. Our role was to gain coverage in a national newspaper to promote an online event held on July 8th where the results were discussed.
Stepping up to the plate, we quickly secured coverage in The Guardian, which in turn saw an additional 400 extra people quickly sign up and participate in the event!
Watch this space for further updates soon about other work we’re currently undertaking with Genomics England.