Tag Archives: health disparities

More African Americans need to participate in clinical trials

Excerpt of an op-ed by David Satcher, MD, PhD, honorary chairman of the African American Network Against Alzheimer’s, former U.S. surgeon general and Research!America’s 2007 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership award winner, published in The Washington Post.

DavidSatcher1Every February our society measures its progress in the march toward equality as part of Black History Month. But seldom do we discuss inequality in health, an injustice that continues to plague African Americans.

A whole host of health disparities remains unaddressed, including Alz­heimer’s — a disease that African Americans are two to three times more likely to develop than non-Hispanic whites. This disparity is rooted as much in our cultural heritage as in our genes.

For years, studies have found that African Americans have a profound mistrust of doctors and scientists. Consequently, we participate in clinical trials at far lower rates than other ethnic groups, which helps to perpetuate the sort of disparities seen with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. This fear of clinical trials dates to a dark chapter in our shared history: the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.

The Tuskegee study was an infamous clinical experiment in which researchers and the U.S. Public Health Service led African American men with syphilis to believe that they were receiving free medical care while, unbeknown to them, they were being left untreated so scientists could study the effects of prolonged syphilis. After the Associated Press exposed the truth, sparking a public outcry, the U.S. government ended the study in 1972, 40 years after it began.

The 1974 National Research Act set new guidelines for the use of humans in clinical studies. In 1997, the Clinton administration worked with higher education institutions to usher in new training requirements and ethical standards for physicians, researchers and medical students as part of an official apology President Bill Clinton issued on behalf of the nation to the victims of the experiments. While these standards go a long way toward helping to prevent future such experiments, much damage was already done among African Americans.

Read the full op-ed here.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: America can do better

Dear Research Advocate:

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the clarion call for equality for all Americans brings to mind the work still to be done to address health disparities. For example, cancer incidence and death rates are significantly higher for African-Americans than for all other ethnic groups, and Hispanic and African-American adults are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to have diabetes than white adults. Our polling shows that nearly 75% of Americans believe it is imperative to conduct research to understand and combat health disparities. As a community of advocates, we need to press policy makers to keep this unacceptable gap in health care and health outcomes in their sights. America can do better.

As September nears, Congress returns to Washington with a looming fiscal debate. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew reports that the debt ceiling will need to be raised earlier than anticipated, possibly as soon as mid-October. The urgency of this deadline takes away any buffer time on which congressional leadership may have hoped to rely. A funding measure for FY14, sequestration, the debt limit, reforms and a government shutdown may well be contenders in the upcoming debate. It will certainly keep advocates for medical and health research busy — fighting sequestration, pushing for greater research funding, pressing for the exemption of user fees from sequestration (should the across-the-board spending cuts remain in place), and even weighing in on the impact of tax and entitlement reform on medical innovation, although it is unlikely that such a reform effort would happen now. Continue reading →

April is National Minority Health Disparities Month

The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have valuable resources on their websites in recognition of National Minority Health Disparities month. This year, CDC and HHS are focusing on health equity and access to affordable healthcare for all.

Health disparities can result from a number of factors – limited access to quality, affordable health care and preventative services, physical activity and fresh food and produce, and unhealthy environments at home and work.

In 2009, health disparities among African-Americans and Hispanics cost private insurers an additional $5.1 billion. Indirect costs associated with unscheduled absences and productivity losses associated with family and personal health problems cost U.S. employers $225 billion annually.  Medical and health research can reduce disparities, improve health care delivery and drive down health care costs. A diverse healthcare work force as well as multicultural training for healthcare professionals will also improve patient care.

Click here to learn more about minority health disparities and what can be done to promote health equity for all Americans. Also visit the CDC’s website to read about programs to reduce minority health disparities; their initiatives include vaccination strategies to reduce childhood infection and diabetes educational programs.

Majority of Americans Say the New Congress Should Take Immediate Action to Expand Medical Research

New Poll Data Summary reveals concerns among Americans about medical progress even in tight fiscal environment

Alexandria, Va.January 9, 2013America Speaks, Volume 13, a compilation of public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America, features timely data about Americans’ views on issues related to biomedical and health research. A majority of Americans (72%) say the new Congress and the President should take action to expand medical research within the first 100 days of the 113th Congress.  Public support for increased government spending on medical research holds particular relevance as Congress considers whether to further delay, eliminate or permit “sequestration,” a budget cutting process that – if it moves forward – would mean drastic cuts in funding for medical research.

“Americans will be looking closely at the actions of the new Congress to see whether lawmakers support policies that will accelerate research and scientific discovery,” said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. “We’re on the brink of finding new treatments and cures for many deadly and debilitating illnesses. Congress must act to ensure that funding for research is sufficient to address current and emerging health threats.”

Most Americans believe accelerated investments in medical research should be a priority, yet nearly 60% say elected officials in Washington are not paying close attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. An overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) also believe that investing in medical innovation has a role in creating jobs and fueling the economy.

When asked about stagnant federal funding levels for research and the impact to science and technology, a wide majority (85%) said they were concerned.

Americans also expressed concerns about U.S. global competitiveness in the near future. Less than half (41%) believe the U.S. will be the world leader in science and technology in the year 2020. In addition, almost half (48%) do not believe the U.S. has the best health care system in the world.

“Consistently, our polls have shown that Americans value research and believe it’s part of the solution to what ails us,” said Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley. “The return on investment is demonstrated in medical breakthroughs that have made diseases that were considered a death sentence into treatable conditions.”

Twenty years ago, AIDS ranked as the number-one health concern among Americans. Since then, research has saved countless lives and continues to drive progress. The number one health concern in 2012 was the cost of health care.

Among notable highlights in the booklet:

  • 78% of Americans believe that it is important that the U.S. work to improve health globally through research and innovation.
  • 70% of Americans believe that the government should encourage science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM) careers.
  • Nearly half (48%) believe government investment in health research for military veterans and service members is not enough.
  • 66% of Americans are willing to share personal health information to advance medical research if appropriate privacy protections were used.
  • 75% say it’s important to conduct research to eliminate health disparities.
  • Only 1 in 5 (19%) know research is conducted in every state.

To view America Speaks, Volume 13, visit: http://www.researchamerica.org/uploads/AmericaSpeaksV13.pdf

Research!America began commissioning polls in 1992 in an effort to understand public support for medical, health and scientific research. The results of Research!America’s polls have proven invaluable to our alliance of member organizations and, in turn, to the fulfillment of our mission to make research to improve health a higher national priority. In response to growing usage and demand, Research!America has expanded its portfolio, which includes state, national and issue-specific polling. Poll data is available by request or at www.researchamerica.org.

Online polls are conducted with a sample size of 800-1,052 adults (age 18+) and a maximum theoretical sampling error of +/- 3.2%. Data are demographically representative of adult U.S. residents. Polling in this publication was conducted by Zogby Analytics and Charlton Research Company.

About Research America

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations representing 125 million Americans. Visit www.researchamerica.org.

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Friends of Cancer Research Releases White Paper on Breast Cancer Health Disparities

The conclusion of “Eliminating Breast Cancer Health Disparities: Communicating to At-Risk Populations,” a white paper recently released by Friends of Cancer Research, is summed up with a quote from breast cancer survivor Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL): “There have been so many advances in screening and treatment of cancer, but all of that is moot if women are not learning about their bodies, taking steps to reduce risk factors, and getting regular and appropriate screening.”

That exemplifies the key takeaway: The white paper is aimed at stakeholders from research to health care delivery, but stakeholders alone won’t be successful in achieving health equity. Patients themselves must be involved too.

The white paper includes four recommendations, with several additional bullet points within each recommendation. The recommendations include:

  • Investigate disparities between women with cancer and healthy women;
  • Build relationships that work directly with at-risk populations;
  • Create expectations for minority participation in the scientific field;
  • And use current and emerging technologies to engage a larger number of patients.

Support for the white paper was provided by The Avon Foundation for Women.

Friends of Cancer Research is a Research!America member, and FOCR’s chairperson and founder, Ellen Sigal, PhD, is a Research!America Board member.