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THURSDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Black Americans are more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to be interested in participating in medical research, including when it involves providing blood or genetic samples, a new study finds.
Now the challenge is to better match that interest with greater inclusion in clinical trials, experts say.
Researchers talked to nearly 6,000 people in five cities: St. Louis, Mo.; Davis, Calif.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York City; and Rochester, N.Y. Interviews were held in places such as barbershops, parks, bus stops, churches, grocery stores, laundromats and health fairs.
The results showed that 91 percent of black Americans who were interviewed expressed an interest in participating in medical research, compared with 85 percent of whites, 84 percent of Hispanics and 79 percent of Asians.
Blacks were also more willing than other racial groups to take part in research even if it might involve providing blood or genetic samples, staying overnight in a hospital, or granting access to their medical records, according to the study recently published online in the American Journal of Public Health.
"For years, African Americans have been underrepresented in research," lead investigator Linda Cottler, chair of epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, said in a university news release.
"Reasons have included mistrust of the medical community and actually not ever being asked to participate in research. Our study shows that while the participation rate among African Americans has been very low, their level of interest in research is high," she said.
Each year, more than 80,000 clinical trials are conducted in the United States, but less than 2 percent of the population participate, according to the news release. Women, the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, and rural residents are often underrepresented in these studies.
"If we're not getting the participation of diverse groups when we're studying medications or interventions, then we don't know how those treatments will work in real life in different populations," Cottler explained. "It's very important for people to have a voice and be represented."
Another expert discussed the new findings.
"This is a groundbreaking study that demonstrates that members of minority communities are interested in research, especially around the diseases and risk factors that are most common in their families and communities," Dr. Lloyd Michener, chair of community and family medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine, said in the news release.
"As many traditional studies struggle with recruitment, this study suggests that the problem may lie with the lack of awareness of researchers with the methods of community engagement, rather than lack of interest or willingness to engage in research among members of these communities," said Michener, who was not involved in the study.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: University of Florida, news release, April 2, 2013