Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: How the Medical Community Can Help Increase Clinical Trial Participation Among Hispanics

How the Medical Community Can Help Increase Clinical Trial Participation Among Hispanics

Online Media Specialist

Recently, a spotlight has been put on increasing participation in clinical trials for all minorities, particularly the Hispanic population. Reaching the fastest growing minority group in the United States has been a struggle over the past decade. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are currently 53 million Hispanics living in the United States, and that number is expected to grow to 128 million by 2060. Despite accounting for 16 percent of the population, Hispanics only make up 1 percent of research subjects according to Applied Clinical Trials. This causes a number of implications for the Hispanic populations, including slowing down the research of new treatments for cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death among Hispanics.

Hispanics in the United States also suffer higher rates of preventable chronic diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure, than their Caucasian counterparts. But the Hispanic population is the second most likely group in the United States to cite the opportunity to "improve the health of others" as very important to them, behind only African-Americans. The question is: Why are we failing to reach them?

Researchers and medical experts cite cultural differences as some of the major barriers to acquiring Hispanic patients for clinical trials. These differences tend to be minor, but could easily change an entire outreach campaign. Research focus groups that have been held by Moffitt Cancer Center show that a common cultural idea among the population is that doctors, not patients, guide treatment decisions. This means that literature cannot be merely translated into Spanish, but requires an entirely new messaging strategy. Materials may need to empower their readers by improving their capacity to make health care decisions and show physicians, rather than other patients, explaining key terms.

The Moffitt Cancer Center's created a video based on its findings to show to physicians and Hispanic patients. One finding considered in the DVD is the idea that Hispanic patients put a greater emphasis on religion and family influence when making a decision. It is not uncommon for patients in this population to have two-three family members sit in on a doctor's visit. Researchers found that respondents preferred if the DVD featured extended family members. The completed DVD is currently being assessed in a randomized control trial.

On top of cultural differences, there are significant health care and medical obstacles blocking the Hispanic population from learning about, and participating in, research trials. There is a significant lack of understanding about the Affordable Care Act, according to a survey done by HolaDoctor. Fifty-one percent of Latino respondents without health insurance stated that they did not know the government offers financial help to buy insurance. Even if they are aware, a legal immigrant must still have been in the country at least five years before they are allowed to apply for health insurance under the ACA. This is a pretty hefty blow to recruiting Hispanics and prevents the spread of clinical trial knowledge via physicians and doctors. Given that research has shown that this population values a trusted doctor's opinion over common clinical trial marketing outlets, not having access to a doctor greatly inhibits trial knowledge among the group.

Pharmaceutical companies have realized that representing the Hispanic population in their trials is very important. The problem is not an absence of clinical trials specifically recruiting people of Hispanic or Latino decent or a shortfall of people willing to participate in trials. It is miscommunication, lack of knowledge, and possibly government oversight that contributes to the low rate of participation. Hopefully with Moffitt Cancer Center's new DVD becoming available, and a willingness to change communication strategies on the side of the medical community, we can start to bring Hispanic-based health research up to speed.

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