Will the Internet Serve to Raise Black Participation in Medical Research?

WUSTLHistorically, recruiting African American to participate in medical research has been a difficult task. Lingering distrust of the government and the medical establishment, due at least in part to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, has made it difficult to find African Americans to volunteer for clinical studies.

Scientists hoped that as recruitment and even actual testing has gone online that this mistrust would dissipate. But a new study led by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis finds that the use of the Internet has not resulted in significant increases in African American’s participation in clinical trials.

In a study of nearly 1,000 people, researchers analyzed DNA to determine genetic factors that were linked to smoking behavior and nicotine additions. Results of the study were posted online. But Black participants were far more likely to go online to learn the results of the study and to find out if they had these genetic variations that increased their risk.

“We don’t know what the barriers are,” said lead author Sarah M. Hartz, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Washington University School of Medicine. “We don’t know whether some people don’t have easy access to the internet or whether there are other factors, but this is not good news as more and more research studies move online because many of the same groups that have been under-represented in past medical research would still be missed going forward.”

The article, “The Significant Impact of Education, Poverty, and Race on Internet-Based Research Participant Engagement,” was published on the website of the journal Genetics in Medicine. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

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