Like most of you, I did not expect the Covid-19 pandemic to last more than maybe a month or two. Pam Marino here, remembering how, when I signed up in late March 2020 for the Covid-19 Citizen Science Survey on the Eureka App, I had no idea that over two-and-a-half years later I would still be filling out weekly surveys about my health habits.
The app was designed by UC San Francisco researchers for other researchers that employs a tool nearly all of us have in hand—our smartphones. Ongoing studies through the app include those on fitness and health habits, heart health, Parkinson’s disease and cancer, among many others. There are studies anyone can sign up for and those that are invitation-only, over 60 in all, with over 500,000 people who have participated.
When Covid-19 came on the scene, the UCSF researchers saw a golden opportunity to study the ins and outs of a global pandemic that no one knew anything about. Since March 26, 2020, more than 100,000 people from the U.S. and over 100 other nations have signed up, says Noah Peyser, a PhD scientist and the scientific program director for Eureka Research Platform.
Apparently I’m one of the 25 percent of participants who are still filling out surveys. I’ve answered hundreds of questions, most of them weekly repeats, like the average number of hours I slept each night, whether I wore a mask out in public and did I visit a gym, restaurant, bar, movie theater or event with more than 10 people? Did I take any form of public transportation?
I’ve also reported illness symptoms, if any, I’ve experienced during the week and whether I tested for Covid. I’ve reported those results, negative or positive, and answered questions about where I got my test. I’ve reported my vaccinations.
Then there are the questions that come approximately monthly and ask me how I’m holding up emotionally. Have I been feeling nervous, anxious or on edge and if so, for how long? Have I not been able to control how much I worry? Had trouble relaxing? There are also questions about my employment, the status of my income and how much I worked from home.
So of course my big question for Peyser was: Is anything being done with the data? “We’re analyzing it like crazy,” he tells me. There have been seven peer-reviewed articles in medical journals with more on the way. The data is being used by the medical community and public health officials, he says. “This is not an exercise in futility. This is real science going on.”
One study, published in June of last year (titled “Predictors of incident viral symptoms ascertained in the era of Covid-19”), found being female, having anemia, hypertension, recent cigarette smoking, living with someone with symptoms or having close contact (less than six feet) with others outside of the home “predicted a higher risk of developing viral symptoms.” Predictors of less likelihood to develop symptoms included a “higher subjective social status,” regular exercise and sanitizing one’s cell phone.
The feedback from participants is positive, Peyser says. “They feel like they are contributing to science and medicine, especially if they get infected. They feel seen, that they are having an impact and that they’re not helpless,” he says.
The Covid-19 study is still open to participants. If you’re interested you can find the app on any app store. There are no plans to stop the study anytime soon and they’re even now shifting it to include research about long Covid.
Are you using the Eureka app? How have you found your experience? Let me know.