Improving health equity through research

Dr. Veronica Fitzpatrick

For doctors and clinicians to treat patients as effectively as possible, they need research and data that reflect a population as diverse as the people they serve.

“What we’ve found in clinical trials at Advocate Aurora Health – and across the country – is that participants tend to be women, white and under age 65,” explained Veronica Fitzpatrick, DrPH, MPH, manager of Patient Centered Outcomes Research at Advocate Aurora Research Institute. “We’re missing a large portion of the population, and that affects health equity.”

This is especially evident with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people of color.

“Not enough people of color are participating in clinical trials related to COVID-19, which means we are not being effective in treating all of our patients.”

To get to the root of this problem, Dr. Fitzpatrick will lead a study on disparities in clinical trial participation, which is being funded through donations to Advocate Aurora Health Foundations’ COVID-19 relief efforts.

“It will be a one-year study in which we’ll use qualitative and quantitative methods to find answers to how we can cultivate a more diverse population in our clinical trials and studies,” said Dr. Fitzpatrick.

She and her team will analyze internal data to get an overall picture of patients, their health and demographics during the pandemic. They’ll also interview clinicians and self-identified patients of color about clinical trial hesitancy, barriers and potential solutions to involvement.

“We want to find out if it’s hesitation on the patient’s part – or if they even have the opportunity to participate. We want to look at what we can do as a system to make them more comfortable and reduce barriers. Ultimately, we want to come up with a solution we can bring back to clinicians.”

Veronica hopes that solution provides ways to encourage more diversity in clinical trials.

“The whole reason we do trials is to is to assess how well treatments are working,” she explained. If we don’t have a good sample of people who represent the patients we’re treating, we can’t be effective. If we can get people from all races, ethnicities and backgrounds to participate, we’ll have a heathier population.”

How you can help

Studies like these are not possible without the support of donors.

“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to have the funding to do something we’re passionate about and that will help more people in the long run,” shared Dr. Fitzpatrick. “It’s also very timely with the pandemic. We’ll not only share our findings within Advocate Aurora but also with other health systems across the country.”

To make a gift to support research like this, click here.