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Cultivating Diversity in Clinical Trials: The Role of Patient Advocacy Groups

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Achieving diversity in clinical trials is essential to ensure equitable access to healthcare interventions and improve health outcomes for all populations. However, underrepresentation of certain demographic groups in clinical research remains a persistent challenge.

Patient advocacy groups can however play a pivotal role in addressing this issue in a number of ways including: enhancing recruitment efforts, addressing barriers, and fostering inclusion, ultimately advancing health equity in clinical research.

Several barriers contribute to the lack of diversity in clinical trials:

a. Historical Mistrust: Historical injustices and unethical practices in medical research have resulted in mistrust among marginalized communities, leading to hesitancy in participating in clinical trials.

b. Lack of Awareness: Limited awareness among diverse communities about the importance of clinical trials, their potential benefits, and available opportunities hinders participation.

c. Access and Socioeconomic Factors: Barriers such as limited access to healthcare, financial constraints, transportation issues, and time constraints may disproportionately affect underrepresented populations.

d. Language and Cultural Barriers: Language disparities and cultural differences can create barriers to understanding and participation in clinical trials.

Patient advocacy groups can play a significant role in cultivating diversity in clinical trials:

Education and Awareness: Advocacy groups can raise awareness about the importance of clinical trials, educate diverse communities about the research process, and address misconceptions and fears.

Recruitment and Outreach: Advocacy groups can actively engage in recruitment efforts by collaborating with researchers, healthcare providers, and community organizations to reach diverse populations and facilitate their participation in clinical trials.

Cultural Competence: Advocacy groups can provide cultural competency training to researchers and trial staff, ensuring that trial protocols and procedures are sensitive to diverse populations' needs.

Policy and Advocacy: Advocacy groups can advocate for policies that promote diversity in clinical trials, including the inclusion of diverse populations in trial design and analysis.

Community Partnerships: Collaborating with community organizations, faith-based institutions, and social networks can help advocacy groups establish trust, facilitate recruitment, and overcome cultural and logistical barriers.

Success Stories:

Several patient advocacy groups have already made significant strides in promoting diversity in clinical trials:

The Lupus Foundation of America: The Lupus Foundation of America has been instrumental in increasing diversity in lupus clinical trials by conducting educational campaigns, fostering partnerships with researchers, and advocating for increased inclusion of underrepresented populations.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: By actively engaging with researchers and industry stakeholders, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation played a crucial role in diversifying clinical trials for cystic fibrosis treatments. Their efforts resulted in more inclusive trial designs and broader access to novel therapies for diverse patient populations.

The Asian Breast Cancer Project: This project collaborates with patient advocacy groups to address language barriers, cultural sensitivities, and social support needs among Asian American women, resulting in increased participation in breast cancer clinical trials.

Strategies for Collaboration with Patient Advocacy Groups:

Partnership Development: Researchers and sponsors should establish collaborative relationships with patient advocacy groups to leverage their expertise, insights, and community connections.

Culturally Tailored Recruitment Strategies: Working closely with patient advocacy groups can help develop recruitment strategies that are culturally sensitive, language-appropriate, and inclusive.

Education and Training: Researchers can collaborate with advocacy groups to provide educational resources and training programs that address barriers, dispel myths, and empower diverse populations to participate in clinical trials.

Conclusion: Patient advocacy groups play a crucial role in cultivating diversity in clinical trials by addressing barriers, fostering community engagement, and advocating for policy changes. By collaborating with these groups, researchers and sponsors can enhance diversity in clinical trials, leading to more representative research outcomes and improved healthcare for all. 


  1. Chen MS, Lara PN, Dang JH, et al. Twenty years post-NIH Revitalization Act: enhancing minority participation in clinical trials (EMPaCT): laying the groundwork for improving minority clinical trial accrual: renewing the case for enhancing minority participation in cancer clinical trials. Cancer. 2014;120 Suppl 7(Suppl 7):1091-1096.
  2. Swanson KA, Bastani R, Rubinsky AD, et al. Improving participation in clinical trials for cancer: a review of the literature. J Oncol Pract. 2012;8(6):e32-e42.
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