Enhancing the recruitment of minorities in clinical trials

Racial and ethnic minorities are often underrepresented in clinical trials, threatening the generalizability of results. Here, authors of a recent study published in BMC Medical Research Methodology present an open online course educating researchers on the subject and promoting improved recruitment practices.

Few institutions provide training on strategies for increasing diversity among clinical trial participants.

Many research teams struggle to recruit racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials, despite increasing awareness of the need for diversity. Unfortunately, few institutions provide training for research teams on strategies for increasing diversity among clinical trial participants. To address this need, we developed a massive open online course, called Faster Together. The goal of the course is to help individuals involved in the clinical research enterprise (including investigators, recruiters, and clinical research coordinators), gain the knowledge and skills needed to successfully recruit and retain racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials.

In our manuscript, we describe the design, implementation, and initial evaluation results based on the ten-month period since the course was released. Briefly, the course was developed through a collaborative process involving a team of content experts, knowledge management information scientists, and videographers. Community feedback was incorporated throughout the course development process through consultation with the Recruitment Innovation Center Community Advisory Board.

The course consists of eight modules, which can each be completed within an hour. The individual modules are divided into short (~10 minute) segments to try to make it easier for learners to complete the training when they have available time. The modules focus on topics including understanding the need for diversity in clinical research, barriers and facilitators to participation, community engagement strategies, pre-screening, consent, and retention. The course content is freely available, and learners can work at their own pace.

Overall, feedback from course participants has been positive, and participants have indicated that the course increased their knowledge of the topic. It remains to be seen whether participation in the course will translate to changes in minority enrollment in clinical trials. However, the majority of learners in our study reported that they intended to alter their recruitment practices as a result of their course participation.

Training on its own will not lead to changes, unless supplemented by actions.

We hope that initiatives such as our course will ultimately result in more equitable representation of minorities in clinical trials. Achieving diversity in research participation is necessary to be able to understand whether the findings of a given study will be relevant for different populations. We recognize that training on its own will not lead to changes, unless supplemented by actions. Changes may be needed at the individual, team, and institutional levels. Responding to the call for increased diversity in clinical trial participation is one of many critical steps we can take to help reduce health disparities and promote health equity.


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