Minority patients are often at the nadir of society, being underrepresented in top economic reforms, and even in the medical research field. Recently, there has been rising evidence of the increasing disparities in risks, disease presentation and response to treatment among diverse ethnic groups. Hence the need to improve recruitment strategies to ensure maximum participation of minorities, thereby creating safer drugs and medical services for all.
There’s no doubt that the recruitment of minorities is a gruesome challenge for researchers, but herein are some of the strategies for the successful recruitment of minorities.
Locating Minority Patients: In engaging minorities which include; women and ethnic minority groups, the leadoff game plan is to find them. Research has shown that ethnic minorities are most likely to visit a physician of their own race. So, including these physicians in clinical trials is key. They’d lead to their patients.
Communicating With Minority Patients: The importance of effective communication cannot be overemphasized. These patients, over time, have often been exploited by medical research institutes, so they are hesitant to participate. The onus lies on research investigators to restore the trust of these minority patients by effective communication of the importance of these trials and their willingness to provide a conducive and enabling environment, where the rights of all and sundry are upheld.
Communication must be in a language they understand, without condescension.
The absence of proper health sensitization for minorities means they are less aware of some of the symptoms of diseases, do not recognize the importance of treatment and are ignorant of the possibility of clinical trial enrollment. Therefore, they must be educated to enable them to make informed decisions regarding their health.
Community-Based Research: A very successful way of involving minority patients, promoting health education, is through community-based participatory research. This entails eliciting the support of trusted community leaders, in this way, they can engage potential participants even before they reach the doctor’s office.
Designing The Research: Improving diversity in trials must begin at the design stages of those trials. This can be through making population diversity a prerequisite for research trial publications. If journal editors and reviewers demand change, the research establishment will follow.
Technology: Researchers must use all weapons at their arsenal, one of which is technology. This involves collaboration with the IT industry, which would facilitate, collection and processing of patient information, especially if the information is necessary for the analysis of the effects of race/gender on clinical outcomes. This also includes partnering with the relevant media outlets and community organizations that are trusted and who reach these patients. Last June the FDA released a draft guidance document on “Enhancing the Diveristy of Clinical Trial Populations”.
As the world becomes more and more diverse this issue will continue to be a pressing one.
Written by Jimmy Dowolemi, University of San Diego School of Medicine
Find more articles on prostate cancer here.