Science and Health Communication Research Group members awarded $200,000 research grant
By: Lee Miller, graduate student, School of Journalism and Mass Communications
Drs. Sei-Hill Kim (SJMC), Andrea Tanner (SJMC) and Daniela Friedman (HPEB) have been awarded a research grant by Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC) to study the knowledge, perceptions and communication needs about clinical trial research among adults in rural South Carolina.
“I am thrilled about this collaborative research opportunity,” said Tanner, who serves as director of the Science and Health Communication Research Group and Co-Principal Investigator. “Not only is this a collaboration among Science and Health Communication Research Group members, but we have been awarded the funding by Health Sciences South Carolina (HSSC), a research collaborative focused on transforming South Carolina's public health and economic well-being through research.”
The state of SC remains largely rural, with 39.5% of the population living in rural areas, compared to 21% nationally. It has long been demonstrated that rural citizens experience significant health disparities, with factors such as limited access to health care services, lower rates of health insurance, lower socioeconomic and educational status and cultural and social differences contributing to these disparities. Enrollment in clinical trials is particularly low in rural areas, making the underserved population largely underrepresented in medical research.
“Our research will address the important question of how to promote awareness of and participation in clinical trials among rural residents in South Carolina,” said Kim, the study’s Principal Investigator. “Given that clinical trials can provide patients with the most advanced medical treatments and screening options, the rural population in SC may represent those who need these opportunities most.”
One of the barriers to participation is the lack of public confidence in medical research, including clinical trials. Historical abuses of research participants, coupled with news reports about the unethical motivation of some clinical researchers, have contributed to the skepticism about clinical trials, particularly among minority populations.
The findings from the study will help identify the key areas for community education and outreach programs as a way to promote greater knowledge, dispel misconceptions and increase positive attitudes.
“Our overall goal is to enhance participation in clinical trials by rural and underserved individuals, said Friedman, Co-PI. “Working with both community members and clinical investigators, we will develop recommendations for effective communication and innovative education for reaching rural communities with information about clinical trials and research participation opportunities.”
The research team presented an overview of the proposed three-year research project to the HSSC Board of Directors in October. The first phase of the research, which will assess the current state of clinical trials and participant eligibility in rural South Carolina, will begin in January.