New Research Award Added to $24 Million Grant to Foster Diversity in Clinical Trial Research

The American Heart Association has announced an additional $4 million grant to add a sixth scientific research center and bring total funding to its Strategically-Focused Research Network (SFRN) on the Science of Diversity in Clinical Trials to $24 million. The new center, led by a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, is made possible through financial support from Care Access and the BRIDGE Initiative, which will also provide in-kind services to the Johns Hopkins center and to the clinical trials research network.

The new center, “Improving Participation Among diverse populations in Cardiovascular clinical Trials (IMPACT),” is led by Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S., FAHA, an American Heart Association volunteer and the director of women’s cardiovascular health and an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins. Payam Sheikhattari, M.D., M.P.H., the director of the Morgan CARES (Community-Aligned Research Solutions) Outreach Center will be the principal collaborator from Morgan State University, one of the nation’s most diverse Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Center researchers will conduct two projects specifically focused on identifying ways to increase participation and recruitment of people from underrepresented populations to take part in clinical research trials. The first project will involve gathering a community of people interested in becoming involved in heart disease research. The community will be called CONNECT. Researchers will seek advice from leaders and members of the local area to develop strategies to test among the CONNECT participants to improve engagement of persons of diverse backgrounds in research studies.

The second project will test different digital methods for finding persons interested in heart disease research and will include evaluations of the use of internet websites, advertisements and platforms like Facebook and Google. These tools will be tested in on-going studies by the research team.

The new center joins five others announced earlier this year. The American Heart Association established this research network to address the long-standing challenge of diversity among people participating in clinical trials for scientific and medical research. The network is the latest initiative in the Association’s unprecedented pledge to aggressively address social determinants of health while working to improve equitable health for all communities. The goal of the initiative is to identify best practices that can be easily replicated to ensure people of all races and ethnicities are fully included in medical research of all disease states.

“The American Heart Association is committed to investing in long-term solutions to ensure equitable health and care for all. We recognize the historical lack of diversity among people participating in clinical trials, especially women and people of color,” said American Heart Association volunteer President Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, the Walter A. Haas-Lucie Stern endowed chair in Cardiology, professor of medicine and admissions dean at University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine. “There are many barriers that reduce or inhibit the inclusion of diverse populations in clinical research. Those may include a lack of access to medical care for screenings or referrals to clinical trials; distrust of the research community; cultural and language differences; literacy and technology challenges; and the persistence of structural racism in our processes and systems. We are pleased to be able to expand this research network and look forward to the impactful knowledge and solutions that come from this important work.”

The new Johns Hopkins/Morgan State center launched in October 2022 and is funded through four years.

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