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GSPH Receives $4M to Study Minority Participation in Health Research

The Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) at the University of Pittsburgh has been awarded a two-year, $3.96 million grant by the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, a part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The new Bioethics Research Grand Opportunity Initiative award is the single largest peer reviewed grant from the NIH American Recovery Act Stimulus awards to the University of Pittsburgh. The two-year grant positions GSPH as a national leader in research designed to overcome barriers to increase the participation of African Americans, Hispanics and other minority populations in public health and medical research, including clinical trials.

Sandra Crouse Quinn, PhD, associate dean for student affairs and education and associate professor, and Stephen B. Thomas, PhD, associate dean for diversity and professor are the principal investigators on the new award along with co-investigators from Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health, the School of Medicine and the Center for Bioethics and Health Law. The grant, “Building Trust between Minorities and Researchers,” will support a major collaboration with Nancy Kass, the Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Clinical and Translational Science Institute partners at the University of Pittsburgh, the Mayo Clinic, Yale University, the University of Wisconsin, The Ohio State University, and the University of Colorado. The international organization Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research (PRIM&R) is also a major partner in this innovative research study.
The representation of racial and ethnic minority populations in public health and biomedical research still lags behind that of whites and has been identified by the NIH as a serious problem. “This deplorable situation represents an ongoing challenge to the validity and generalizability of research findings, which consequently contributes to disparities in health status and medical care, both of which constitute an injustice to unrepresented minority groups,” said Quinn.

Over the past 15 years, Thomas and Quinn have documented multiple factors that influence the participation of minorities, including that lack of access to research, lack of knowledge about the research process and distrust of researchers. Additionally, “…well documented barriers such as negative attitudes of researchers and health professionals toward racial and ethnic minority populations must be addressed,” said Thomas. The grant unites a strong team of public health researchers, physician scientists, bioethicists, multiple Clinical and Translational Science Institutes, and the organization Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research to implement the first national effort that seeks simultaneously to impact minority communities, research investigators and Institutional Review Board (IRB) members. NIH acknowledged the GSPH proposal as a “well-written, thorough and well-thought-out application from a team of investigators that were instrumental in initiating this field.”

Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the investigators will examine the attitudes, knowledge, and behaviors of researchers; identify best practices in community engagement; determine the level of knowledge about research, informed consent, and willingness to participate in research among a national random sample of minorities; develop, pilot test, and revise a curriculum, "Building Trust" for minority communities; and finally, develop and implement multiple trainings aimed at enhancing the capacity of researchers and IRB members to support recruitment and engagement with minority communities.

“Our over-arching goal is to produce effective, sustainable tools that can be implemented and evaluated to determine the extent to which they contribute to the increase in minority participation in NIH-sponsored research and increase the self-efficacy of investigators dedicated to this goal,” said Quinn. “We will build a national infrastructure of training and educational initiatives, which can be evaluated over time to determine their impact on improving minority participation in research. The prime objective of our “Building Trust” bioethics research infrastructure initiative is to develop, implement, and evaluate strategies aimed at increasing minority participation in biomedical and public health research, including randomized clinical trials.”


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