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Recruiting Diverse Populations for Clinical Research Trials

Posted by PCC Institute for Health Professionals on May 03, 2022


The pandemic brought the world of clinical research front and center. It made more people learn about testing new medical treatments ethically and thoroughly. Every health treatment and innovation needs proper testing to understand its complexity and how people from all backgrounds respond to the procedure or medication. Growing treatment options and medical necessity makes clinical research an essential and expanding field.

An excellent example of how clinical research education can help is in the world of research recruitment. Recruiting diverse populations for clinical trials is integral to getting reliable data from the results of such trials. Let's explore how this process tends to occur.

Understanding Diversity in Clinical Research

Different demographics and backgrounds can impact how a treatment works in other medical procedures. For instance, a seven-year-old child will respond differently to treatment than an 85-year-old adult. Men and women will have different responses to treatment, and many environmental factors, including whether subjects smoke cigarettes or consume lots of vegetables, can also impact in some cases.

Recruiting a diverse range of subjects for clinical trials helps researchers learn:

  • Who this treatment helps most.
  • Who experiences the most side effects.
  • Whose demographic profile might be less likely to respond well to the treatment.

All this data helps doctors and other medical team members prescribe treatments in ways that maximize positive effects and minimize side effects.

There are complexities in any given clinical trial that require a representative population. If a particular kind of heart disease is most common in people of a specific demographic profile or over a certain age, it's essential to recruit diverse patients within the appropriate age range. If the disease is vanishingly rare in other age groups, it makes sense to restrict the population.

For broad projects, such as recent COVID-19 vaccination efforts, it's vital to research every possible demographic who would be considered candidates for the vaccine. No one wants to discover that a successful clinical trial that was supposed to work for both men and women had 10,000 men participants and only three women. Or the trial was conducted with primarily people from only one racial group. That's not giving you nearly as much data on the effect of the trial on women or people of color with different medical needs.

Narrowing Study Participants Without Losing Key Diversity

Recruiting widely is essential, and it's equally important to decide who you will officially admit into a trial. Clinical researchers must figure out how to spend resources wisely. They, unfortunately, cannot provide treatment to an infinite number of patients without cutting down on the broad applicability of their work. If the studied treatment is most relevant for individuals ages 35 to 45 across all genders and racial backgrounds, you should evaluate diversity exclusively amongst that group. In this case, removing anyone younger or older from the initial recruitment makes sense. However, maintaining diversity is still essential to know if the study is representative of all gender and racial groups. If not, the recruitment process may need to expand again.

Creative Advertisement and Developing Networks Helps Lead to Diversity

Clinical research recruitment doesn't have the luxury of putting up just a few flyers in a couple of spots and expecting to get an entirely diverse set of potential participants. Instead, clinical research recruiting must constantly learn: if a given set of advertisements yielded a study lacking in, for instance, gender or socioeconomic status diversity, they need to find ways to reach other genders and different income brackets. A study has successfully represented diversity if, across all relevant demographics, the sample set reflects the population diversity of your study zone or the nation as a whole.

Learn Clinical Research from Highly Trained Instructional Staff

The Portland Community College Institute for Health Professionals set out to design a program that would help those already interested in healthcare participate in the growing career opportunities in the Clinical Research world. Understanding why clinical research needs diverse populations is just the beginning.

Your coursework and practical learning environment will help you see the direct benefits of population diversity in clinical research trials and many examples of why this work makes the clinical trials more effective for future treatments. The curriculum was developed in collaboration with teams actively doing clinical research in the Portland area, helping to make everything in the program as relevant as possible and boosting the reputation and relevance of taking this coursework.

Learn more today and sign up for the Foundations of Clinical Research program for yourself!

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From entry-level training to continuing education units (CEUs) for working  professionals, CLIMB's Institute for Health Professionals offers a range  of educational opportunities for health care professionals. You can always  count on the Institute for Health Professionals at PCC CLIMB to provide  the health training that you need to succeed in a health care career. 

Topics: Clinical Research

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