Faith leaders help recruit people of color for a new nationwide study.
Black Americans are two to three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than white Americans—yet they represent just 5 percent of participants in clinical trials.
For a new national study called US POINTER, researchers at Brown and affiliated organizations are partnering with faith-based leaders to encourage more people of color to enroll in the trial.
“If you want real change, you must start at the center of the community, and the center of the African American community has long been the African American church,” says Rev. Dr. Lamonte Williams, faith engagement director for US POINTER.
He expects that with this approach, Rhode Island researchers can reach their goal of 30 percent enrollment by people of color. “There is a massive gulf between who is affected [by Alzheimer’s]and who is involved,” Williams says.
To overcome the hesitancy of people of color to participate in medical research, it’s critical to acknowledge the legacy of racism and work to build trust. The partnership with faith leaders, he says, seeks to “put African Americans at the table and not on the table.”
The goal of US POINTER is to see if changes in diet and exercise can prevent age-related memory loss. The study seeks to enroll 2,000 participants at five sites across the country, including 400 in Rhode Island. Local pastors say the effort has been gaining traction since kicking off last October.
“Word is rapidly spreading, and people are excited,” says Rev. Howard M. Jenkins Jr., president of the Ministers Alliance of Rhode Island. “They’re eager to learn how they can get involved.”