Awareness of Clinical Research Increases Among Underrepresented Groups

, ,
Applied Clinical Trials, Applied Clinical Trials-04-01-2022, Volume 31, Issue 4

Latest CISCRP study provides insight on proactive outreach.

This article is part of a series on the results of the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP)’s 2021 Perceptions & Insights Study. Nearly 12,000 people worldwide responded to the online survey—including the public, patients, and study volunteers—and provided insights into opportunities to improve global clinical research education, outreach, and engagement.

There have been widely publicized articles detailing how the COVID-19 pandemic has brought increased attention to clinical trials among the public and magnified the importance of including diverse populations in clinical research. But few reports have emerged on the impact of various diversity and inclusion campaigns on awareness and enrollment measures among underrepresented communities, with many of these campaigns launching during the height of the pandemic and focused on COVID clinical trials.

In promising news, our latest study identified pronounced increases in the general levels of awareness of clinical research among members of these underrepresented communities compared to their white and Non-Hispanic counterparts, suggesting that some of these targeted campaigns may have had an effect on these measures. As such, one must consider what types of efforts are most effective at engaging individuals from diverse backgrounds and, more importantly, should be implemented in the long-term. This article highlights findings from our latest study and explores the answers to these important questions and implications for the future.

When initially surveyed between April and July of 2021, more respondents reported that they heard of clinical research studies looking for volunteers in the last six months compared to previous studies. Among all survey respondents, a significant increase in awareness of clinical research studies seeking volunteers was reported (63%) compared to 2019 (54%). This increase may be attributed to the COVID pandemic, as most respondents reported their awareness either somewhat or greatly increased (74%), while only 25% reported “no change” in awareness.

Awareness of clinical research studies looking for volunteers was significantly higher among both Black (69%) and Hispanic (71%) respondents (see Figure 1 below), as compared to those identifying as white (62%) or Non-Hispanic (61%). Such findings may indicate that efforts to engage and enroll a more diverse population into clinical trials were effective in reaching members of those communities. When asked how they became aware of clinical research studies looking for volunteers, top-cited sources for both Hispanic and Black respondents included: social media sites (38%, 40%); traditional advertisements (e.g., on TV, newspaper, radio; 37%, 37%); and online advertisements (31%, 35%).

Individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds were also more likely to report being asked to participate in a clinical research study, which may be indicative of outreach efforts and their success.

Nearly two-thirds of Hispanic respondents (65%) reported being asked to participate, compared to only half (52%) of Non-Hispanic respondents. Similarly, Black (65%) respondents were significantly more likely to have been asked than their white counterparts (52%).

Targeted communications were the primary source of how individuals reported being asked to participate. In particular, “an email from a research study center or patient recruitment company” was the top-reported channel by which Black (31%) and Hispanic (22%) individuals were asked to participate. Subsequently, “through social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)’ was the second-highest identified method of engagement among individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic (20%) and Black (19%) respondents.

The so what

Underlying awareness in clinical research is elevated at this time, helping to drive greater use and demand for highly targeted and personalized approaches to attract a more diverse community of study volunteers.

Proactive outreach methods, including email campaigns and social media channels, appear to be particularly effective at reaching these underrepresented communities.

Kimbra Edwards, PhD, Associate Director, Medical Writing, CISCRP, Annick de Bruin, Senior Director, Research Services, CISCRP, and Jessica Cronin, Project Manager, CISCRP