(Reuters Health) - White parents may be more likely than African American or Hispanic parents to allow their children to participate in a medical trial, a recent U.S. study suggests.
The difference appears to stem in part from “family circumstances,” such as an inability to get time off from work to be with the child at the hospital, that more often affect non-white parents, according to findings presented January 22 at the Society of Critical Care’s annual conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“Disparities in research participation may compromise the generalizability and validity of study findings,” lead author Dr. Joanne Natale, a pediatrics professor at the University of California, Davis told Reuters Health by email.
A lack of information on this topic also compromises researchers’ ability to analyze and address the problem, Natale added. “We strongly recommend implementation of standards that would make data regarding research consent and participation in racial and ethnic subgroups routinely available,” she said.
The researchers sought permission from parents for 2,933 children to participate in a critical care trial. It spanned 31 pediatric intensive care units across the country and examined an algorithm for nurses to use in managing sedation for children on mechanical ventilation.
Of the nearly 3,000 children eligible for the trial, 2,278 (78 percent) received parental permission to participate.
White parents consented at a rate of 82.2 percent, compared to 74.1 percent of Hispanic parents and 71.5 percent of black parents.
Family circumstances made black families ineligible to be offered consent to participate in the trial more often than Hispanic or white families. For example, a parent or guardian could not be at the child’s bedside because they were at work or lacked the resources to travel the sometimes-long distances to the hospital. Or the children were in foster care or wards of the state.
And even among parents who were offered the choice to join, black parents were more than 50 percent less likely than white parents to let their children participate in the trial, and Hispanic parents were 28 percent less likely to participate.
More parents agreed to join when they were allowed to participate in the control rather than the intervention arm, however, and that held true for all the parents in the study.
One explanation for some of the difference in participation rates may be greater distrust of the medical community among people in black and Hispanic communities, said Dr. James Chamberlain, division chief of emergency medicine at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the research.
“Future efforts to reduce these disparities should focus on coordinating with families’ schedules to improve approach rates, and performing qualitative work with patient and family groups to determine optimal ways to communicate information about medical research,” Chamberlain told Reuters Health.
SOURCE: bit.ly/2kNhnnk Society of Critical Care Medicine 2017.