Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Addressing the Underrepresentation of Asian Americans in Clinical Trials

Addressing the Underrepresentation of Asian Americans in Clinical Trials

Content Specialist

Although Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority group in the United States, Asian Americans are among the least represented minority group in U.S. clinical trials. Existing barriers to Asian Americans' participation in clinical trials are neither well understood nor documented.

As with Latinos, Asian Americans' language and culture likely affects their underrepresentation in clinical trials. How these factors interact with health care is not easily generalized, however, because of the heterogeneity of language and culture present in this group.

The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down--a book that has become a staple for teaching the importance of cultural competence for health care providers--illustrates the struggles of just one Asian, immigrant family in their interaction with Western medicine and the American health care system. The divide between this family and health care providers centered on:

  • Differences between Western and Eastern cultural outlooks on disease
  • Language barriers that can compromise the quality of care
  • Low degree of education and socioeconomic status 

The family portrayed in this book represented an ethnic minority within a minority group. Nevertheless, their story captured struggles in navigating the American health care system that might be faced by other Asian immigrants who also have limited education, low socioeconomic status, and limited English proficiency.

Asian Americans who fall into this demographic may benefit from strategies suggested for other minority group members who also belong to this demographic:

  • Long-term policy changes to address inequality
  • Sustained partnerships between research and community organizations
  • Delivery of information in a culturally and linguistically compatible manner

Conversely, because higher socioeconomic status and education often overlap with increased participation in clinical trials, Asian Americans who are well educated and have high socioeconomic status may be receptive to more traditional recruitment methods that are modified to resonate with multicultural and multilingual identity.

This is part 4 of the Healthyist's series "Recognizing Unseen Opportunities: Increasing Recruitment and Retention of Ethnic and Racial Minority Populations in U.S. Clinical Trials." For more information on our thoughts on minority recruitment in clinical trials, read part 1, Redefining Barriers to Minority Participation in Clinical Trials, part 2, Addressing the Underrepresentation of African Americans in Clinical Trials, and part 3, Addressing the underrepresentation of Latinos in Clinical Trials.

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