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Another Voice: Equity in research will improve community health

By Renee Cadzow and Laurene Tumiel-Berhalter

There is great diversity in our global population and increasingly in the United States and locally.

In order to best meet the health and health care needs of everyone, researchers are responsible for recruiting a diverse sample of adults and children to participate in focus groups, surveys, behavioral interventions, clinical trials and other types of research.

There are numerous reasons why many people are reticent to participate in research, including historical abuses and persisting disparate treatment of people of color. Unfortunately, this is partially contributing to ongoing inadequate health-related programming and care as well as the disproportionate experience of poor health outcomes among minority populations.

Without the input of a variety of people, programs and treatments cannot be tailored, designed or developed to meet their needs. Whether one is the researcher or the “researched,” we all have a responsibility to remedy this inequity.

First, research should be relevant to the population being asked to participate. More people will be interested in participating if they feel it has direct relevance to their lives or the lives of their loved ones. Researchers must strive to maintain transparency, to the extent possible, regarding the purpose of their research and what it involves for the participant. Finally, study findings from community-based research should be routinely shared through newsletters and social media.

These are more accessible than academic journals and will maximize community buy-in, thus improving subsequent recruitment.

The researched population has a responsibility to ensure their voices are heard in the development of treatments, procedures and programs designed to improve their health. This means accessing informational resources to better understand what research means.

Finally, community members can advocate for specific topics to be studied. If someone is aware of an issue that is severely impacting their community, they can seek local researcher partnership to investigate the issue and co-produce solutions.

The University at Buffalo’s Clinical and Translational Science Award has received funds to address this issue. Members of our community can learn more about ways they can become involved in current studies or notified about future studies by visiting buffaloctrc.org or by calling (716) 829-2502.

Renee Cadzow, Ph.D., is assistant professor in health services administration at D’Youville College and a community engagement specialist for pediatric populations in the UB Department of Pediatrics. Laurene Tumiel-Berhalter, Ph.D., is associate professor of family medicine and the director of community engagement, Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Award, at UB.

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