by Professor Mahendra Patel, English Pharmacy Board Member
People from BAME backgrounds are commonly under-represented in health research and their participation and recruitment to clinical trials is crucial if we are to meaningfully address the long-term issues of health inequalities.
Sadly, these very communities have also been disproportionally affected by the pandemic.
I’m delighted to be in a position to champion how pharmacy can help make a tangible difference through my recent appointment as the National BAME community and pharmacy lead for Oxford University’s PRINCIPLE trial. The trial aims to find treatments for COVID-19 that are suitable for patients aged over 50 and can be taken at home.
Breaking down barriers
It’s well documented that BAME communities experience far worse outcomes from getting COVID-19 than people of white ethnicity. Recruiting people from these backgrounds is essential to understanding if the treatments in the trial are actually going to work.
I’ve spoken before about how culturally sensitive approaches are needed to help break down some of the invisible barriers to improving health in BAME communities. I’m certain this could pave way to reducing some of the wide variations in health and health inequalities that exist.
How we reach out to different communities is vital to build confidence and understanding, taking into account people’s different cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes. The underrepresentation of BAME communities has been a problem in research for decades. In our work on the PRINCIPLE trial we are finding the solution is to work with the structures and networks already in place to increase participation.
Through PRINCIPLE I’ve now engaged with a variety of community organisations, local councils, national religious leaders, healthcare professionals and local press, among others. By approaching communities at every level and using the very institutions that are the backbone of these communities, we have been able to see a huge increase in engagement from many previous neglected parts of our society.
While it may seem that pharmacy is distinct from all this, it can in fact be critical. Pharmacists are increasingly the face of healthcare for many. By bringing our pharmacy colleagues on board and working along side them we can reach parts of the community that for years have simply not been aware of the resources out there. I want to mobilise pharmacists to help research become more inclusive and have more communities better represented.
Ultimately, we are working with our local communities and reaching out to people from all backgrounds, and early signs are that this is working where more traditional advertising approaches have failed in the past!
This is just the beginning of this work. I hope to develop and build upon all of our growing networks to ensure that everyone, regardless of community or location, has the opportunity to benefit from the amazing research and support we have in this country.
For details to take part in the PRINCIPLE trial, see here: https://www.principletrial.org/participants/how-to-join-the-trial
We want to encourage voices that express the diversity of lived experiences in the profession as part of our inclusion and diversity work. If you’d like to share your story, contact [email protected] or get involved through our ABCD group.