Participants from diverse backgrounds are needed to understand how clinical research results translate into the real-world. Clinical trial results provide key evidence to evaluate new medicines or medical products. For example, safety and effectiveness of a drug may differ depending on sex, age, race, ethnicity, lifestyle, or genetics of the person taking it. Not enough racial/ ethnic minorities participate in most clinical trials.

Why are minorities underrepresented?

One problem is that race and/or ethnicity information about research participants is not routinely collected. Also, many barriers block underserved groups from clinical trials. Common barriers include researchers who do not speak the participants’ language, participant visits only in business hours), and participants’ lack of trust about the research process.

Barriers to increasing diversity in clinical studies

In a new review, researchers from the U.K. found the main barriers preventing participation of underserved communities in clinical trials. They found that the greatest barriers relate to language and communication, lack of trust, access to trials, eligibility criteria, attitudes and beliefs, lack of knowledge around clinical trials, and logistical and practical issues.

There are many ways to improve diversity in participation. For example, cultural competency training for staff can be effective. Community partnerships and a more personalized approach can help. It is important to create multilingual materials for participants, and to address logistical barriers (such as transportation and access issues).

Improve cultural competency of researchers

The main recommendation is to improve cultural competency and sensitivity of all research staff. This can be achieved through training and ongoing personal development, forming a diverse community advisory panel for input into the research process, and recruiting staff from underserved groups. Making these changes may help more underserved groups participate in clinical trials.


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