Late last year, Gloria Coronado, PhD, received the honor of being asked by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to join a Committee on Improving the Representation of Women and Underrepresented Minorities in Clinical Trials and Research. The National Academies are a highly regarded group of scientists that provide expert advice to the U.S. government.
Dr. Coronado, the Mitch Greenlick Endowed Distinguished Investigator in Health Disparities Research at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research (CHR), is an epidemiologist who works to eliminate disparities (inequalities) in access to health care, affordability, and care quality. She leads research to engage hard-to-reach populations in cancer screening, directing programs to improve screening and follow-up care in Washington, Oregon, and California.
Inclusion in Research Matters
The lack of women, as well as people who are African American, Latino, Native American, and members of other historically underrepresented groups in research, is a well-documented problem. It means that study results may not apply to people in these groups, and we therefore will not know if the treatments being tested will work for them. By including a wider variety of people in research, we can build scientific knowledge about what treatments work for all kinds of people, so that what we learn from research can benefit everyone.
The Committee's Work
The expert national committee Dr. Coronado has joined is undertaking several tasks:
- Reviewing research on the long-term economic and health benefits of increasing the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in research.
- Looking for ways to overcome barriers that prevent participation in research, such as the inability to attend visits due to inflexible job hours, lack of childcare, or transportation costs.
- Examining programs to increase participation, highlighting those that are effective, and analyzing whether and how those programs can be spread and scaled up.
- Considering how researchers can promote inclusion, such as by using equity-informed research designs and community-driven approaches.
- Producing a final consensus report, commissioned by Congress, with findings and recommendations.
The Committee’s Progress in 2021
Dr. Coronado says the committee has met more than a dozen times so far this year in day-long sessions. The group has also hosted two public workshops, one in March, and one in June, that focused on how to overcome barriers to make clinical trials more diverse. Dr. Coronado speaks highly of her experience with this national group, noting, “The committee is making outstanding progress toward reviewing existing research on the economic and health benefits of diversifying clinical trials and highlighting effective policies and programs that serve as models.” She adds, “It has been an honor to work among this group of key thought leaders.” Dr. Coronado’s service on the committee will continue through June 2022.