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DOI: 10.1186/s13023-023-02986-x


BACKGROUND: Research priorities are best defined through engagement with communities who will be impacted by the research and have lived experience of the topics to be studied. We aimed to establish a pediatric rare disease community stakeholder group and empower them in (1) eliciting perspectives from affected families in the wider region and (2) synthesizing collective ideas into a research agenda focused on shared ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) across rare disease.

METHODS: This two-year project utilized a community-centered approach to engage rare disease community members as equal partners in developing a research agenda for ELSI in rare disease. We established "Rare Voices" (RV), a 22-member stakeholder group of patients, parents, clinicians and researchers. Following capacity-building trainings, RV designed and conducted listening sessions with teen patients and parents of children with rare diseases to explore challenges, positive experiences, and ethical concerns. Listening session findings were synthesized and contextualized into research topics, which RV members further refined and prioritized. We used established measures to assess RV member engagement and satisfaction.

RESULTS: From 14 listening sessions with parents (n = 52) and teen patients (n = 13), RV identified eight core research topics as most important for future rare disease research: coordinating care, communication, accessing resources and care, impact on family unit, community and support in society, mental health and identity, ethical aspects of care, and uncertainty. RV members were highly engaged throughout the two-year project and reported high levels of satisfaction with the experience and research agenda.

CONCLUSIONS: Through capacity-building and authentic engagement, this project resulted in a community-led rare disease research agenda to guide future rare disease ELSI research that aligns with patients' and families' priorities. An environment of equal partnership and respect created a space for mutual learning where community members were empowered to shape the research agenda based on their collective experiences. The agenda recognizes the shared psychosocial and healthcare experiences of rare disease and offers practical areas of research to address patient and family needs.

Journal Title

Orphanet J Rare Dis





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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Humans; Child; Rare Diseases; Mental Health; Parents


Community engagement; ELSI; Rare disease; Research agenda


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