According to the Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation, Hispanics account for 13% of the U.S. population but only 1% of participants in clinical trials for new treatments for serious conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. “These are diseases that are more prevalent among Hispanics, and minorities in general,” says Joel Escobedo, a student at the University of Michigan Medical School. “We need to understand how these conditions affect Hispanics, how treatments work for them and what areas we need to pay particular attention to with Hispanic patients.”
Fortunately, Escobedo is doing more than just asking these questions. As part of a team of researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, he conducted a study to investigate the reasons for Hispanics’ lack of participation in clinical research and to find ways to encourage more members of America’s largest ethnic minority population to take part in such research.
The study’s findings, presented earlier this year at the American Geriatrics Society’s annual meeting, revealed that many Hispanic people would be more willing to participate in clinical trials if the researcher spoke Spanish. “They didn’t care [about the ethnicity of the researcher], as long as the person spoke Spanish,” Escobedo reports. They were also more willing to participate if they felt the research would have a health benefit to them (e.g., if they were offered free screenings for blood pressure or diabetes), if it would benefit the Hispanic community and if they could do their part on weekends rather than weekdays.
Another issue identified by the study was the importance of getting information to Hispanic people that clinical studies are taking place. “We found that they often just don’t know about research studies that need participants,” Escobedo explains. “When they actually know about clinical research, many Hispanic people are willing to participate.”
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