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    Time to Expand the Mission of America’s Federally Qualified Health Centers?

    By Hannah Drake • September 18, 2020

    The following is an excerpt from our free whitepaper “Ending Racial Disparities in Clinical Trials.” Click here to download your copy.

    Today, 37% of clinical trials fail to meet their enrollment targets. Even those trials that do meet their enrollment target numbers often fail to accurately represent the diversity of our nation’s patient population in those numbers, undermining the validity of the research and the healthcare system’s goal of equitable care for all.

    How might we connect more people, particularly more people from minority groups, to clinical trial opportunities?

    Primary care providers are often the first step in a patient’s care journey and they coordinate subsequent downstream specialty care. Given this role, primary care clinics might be called on to play a part in introducing patients to clinical trials. Consider one provider of primary care in particular: America’s Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

    shutterstock_1463202677FQHCs were created in the 1960s as a part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” Modeled after community-based health care in South Africa, these health centers combine federal funding with community resources in rural and urban America to provide affordable, high-quality, comprehensive primary care to underserved populations, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. In 2019, 1,362 federally funded health centers served 29 million Americans. 

    FQHCs serve a racially and socioeconomically diverse population: While the US population is 60% White, 18% Hispanic/Latino, and 13% Black, health center patient populations are 41% White, 36% Hispanic/Latino, and 22% Black. Further, 82% of these patients are uninsured or publicly insured, and 91% are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level. 

    It stands to reason, then, that if research initiatives could be optimized to include America’s health centers, it would increase overall trial participation and the ratio of minority groups in clinical trials. 

    Ensuring patients have equal access to participation in clinical research is supported by the original goal of health centers: to improve community health while narrowing healthcare disparities regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. In the short term, participating in research provides a health center with the opportunity to provide patients with access to innovative therapies. In the longer term, participating in research may also provide funding opportunities for health centers and give them the ability to provide additional or improved clinical services. 

    Additionally, participation in research may be an employment incentive for some providers/staff and improve career satisfaction. By making clinical trial discussion and awareness a part of routine healthcare, health centers are also more likely to retain patients who may otherwise be forced to seek treatment elsewhere if they want to pursue clinical research opportunities.

    We at par8o believe that when health centers are empowered to offer clinical research opportunities to patients in a way that considers their unique operational needs, diversity in clinical trials will improve and clinical research will be better positioned to meet its goals. Furthermore, more members of minority groups will gain the opportunity to benefit from advanced therapies still in development.

    With their patient-centric focus, mission-driven culture, and patient demographics, health centers are uniquely positioned to help deliver a solution our clinical trial research industry needs.

    This post was excerpted from our free whitepaper “Ending Racial Disparities in Clinical Trials” Click here to read the whitepaper in its entirety.