Historically African Americans have had a mistrust of doctors and the medical community. And consequently, we participate in clinical trials at much lower rates than other ethnic groups. So what does that mean for us?
For as long as we do this, we will remain the least healthy ethnic group in the United States. We will continue to be more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS. And we will continue to be less likely to survive prostate cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer.
Most drugs and treatments for diseases are developed and designed for middle-aged white men. Though we are over-represented in diseases, African Americans are significantly underrepresented in medical research. According to the Food and Drug Administration, while African-Americans represent 12% of the total U.S. population, they comprise just 5% of clinical trial participants. Despite a Congressional mandate that research financed by the National Institutes of Health include minorities, people of color comprise less than 5% of participants in NIH-supported studies.
So what’s the problem? We know about the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment where Black men were given misinformation and lied to by the U.S. Public Health Service in return for free medical care. And, you may have read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, where a young Black woman’s cells were cultivated for research without her knowledge and consent, and serve as the foundation for most of the world’s cancer research.