UH Med Now
JABSOM shares $20 million project to foster diversity in clinical trial research
The American Heart Association, Pfizer, and Gates Ventures awards five new grants to 10 universities and health care systems.
HONOLULU — Research scientists from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) John A. Burns Medical School (JABSOM) Department of Native Hawaiian Health (DNHH), in partnership with colleagues from nine universities and health care systems, will lead a ground-breaking $20 million research project to study barriers that prevent people of diverse race and ethnicity from being represented and included in clinical research trials, with the goal of identifying best practices that can be easily replicated to ensure people of all races and ethnicities are fully included.
The Strategically-Focused Research Network (SFRN) on the Science of Diversity in Clinical Trials of the American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading voluntary organization dedicated to a world of longer and healthier lives, is funded in part by Pfizer and Gates Ventures. It is the latest initiative in the AHA’s unprecedented pledge to aggressively address social determinants of health while working to improve health equity for all communities. The four-year grant projects began on Apr 1, 2022.
JABSOM’s Keawe Kaholokula, PhD, and Claire Townsend Ing, DrPH, from DNHH will collaborate with those from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) and Washington State University (WSU) under the AHA’s program, Integrated Community Engaged, mobile health (mHealth), and Data Science to Enhance Clinical Trial Diversity and Cardiometabolic Health (iDIVERSE). The collaborators will address disparities in clinical research in multiple diverse populations. The center at JABSOM focuses on Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander participants; the WSU is working with Native American participants; and the center at UCLA is concentrating on African/Black, Asian/Filipino, and Latin American participants.
“Addressing the large health inequities we see between our Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities and other ethnic communities requires, in part, our participation in clinical research to ensure public health interventions and medical treatments are both safe and effective for them,” said Kaholokula, who is a co-director of iDIVERSE.
“Yet, there is a well-founded mistrust and concern about participating in scientific and medical research because of historical and contemporary discrimination and mistreatment. We need to seriously address these concerns and wrongdoings to ensure that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders can benefit from clinical research.”
Each center conducts a clinical trial to treat heart disease, diabetes or obesity by using smartphones to stay in touch with participants throughout the project. The three complementary projects aim to mitigate cardiometabolic disparities and they will be thematically connected through mHealth approaches to improve recruitment, enrollment and participation of diverse individuals in clinical trials.
“One way we work to address the mistrust and concern about research participation is by actively engaging Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islander communities throughout the clinical research process,” said Ing, assistant professor of DNHH at JABSOM. “Through this active engagement, we ensure that our clinical trials are designed, implemented, and disseminated in ways that respect and empower community. In this specific trial, we aim to better understand the factors that impact Native Hawaiians’ decisions to participate in clinical trials, create mobile technology-based intervention to address these factors, and thereby improve participant recruitment and retention.”
The AHA iDIVERSE team will further provide diversity training and, where appropriate, machine learning approaches to advance health equity in clinical trials. This collaborative team is led by Tzung Hsiai, M.D., Ph.D., the Maud Cady Guthman Endowed Term Chair in Cardiology and a professor of medicine (cardiology) and bioengineering at UCLA, and co-directed by Keith C. Norris, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chair for the Department of Medicine for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and a professor of medicine at UCLA and JABSOM’s Kaholokula, professor and chair of the Department of Native Hawaiian Health at UHM.
By Paula Bender, JABSOM Med News