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COVID-19 treatment trial to strengthen Black, Asian and minority ethnic community participation

COVID-19 treatment trial to strengthen Black, Asian and minority ethnic community participation

By Professor Mahendra G Patel, University of Bradford, joins PRINCIPLE Trial as National BAME Community and Pharmacy Lead

Thousands of volunteers are still needed for research studies into coronavirus treatments, especially amongst British Asian communities, who are often underrepresented in this type of research but can be at higher risk of developing more serious COVID-19 illness.

The UK’s PRINCIPLE trial, funded by UK Research and Innovation and the Department of Health and Social Care through the National Institute for Health Research and led by the University of Oxford, has established a National Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Community and Pharmacy Research Lead to strengthen recruitment from across these communities.

The trial is evaluating whether treatment early on in the community can help people aged over 50 recover quickly from COVID-19 illness, without the need for hospital admission.

It is open across the UK to people aged over 50 with an underlying health condition or anyone aged over 65. Those with COVID-19 symptoms can be easily join online from home or via GP practices across the country, without needing face-to-face visits. Delivery of the trial and recruitment of participants is supported by the National Institute for Health Research Clinical Research Networks across more than 800 general practices.

PRINCIPLE is one of the UK Government’s national priority platform trials on treatments for COVID-19, with over 850 participants already signed up and contributing. While developing grassroots partnerships has been a major focus of the trial’s recruitment strategy so far, recruiting people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities has been a particular challenge.

Lead Investigator Professor Chris Butler from University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “Like other trials evaluating potential coronavirus treatments, recruiting participants into PRINCIPLE who are at most risk of developing serious illness is the best way to understand whether these treatments are actually going to be effective.

"Conventional patient recruitment strategies which rely on utilising established national and regional clinical networks often fail to reach those who are typically under-represented in health research.

"Reaching out to the Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities through areas such as local places of worship and community centres using a more targeted and culturally sensitive approach is crucial for researchers seeking to understand more about COVID-19 and how to treat it. This is particularly important in communities where language, cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes may present as a barrier to engagement.”

To widen community access to the PRINCIPLE trial, Professor Mahendra G Patel has joined the trial as Co-Investigator and will act as the trial’s National Black, Asian and minority ethnic Community and Pharmacy Research Lead.

An Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Bradford’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Visiting Professor at the School of Life Sciences the University of Sussex, Professor Patel is currently the Community Pharmacy Research Champion for the NIHR Yorkshire and Humber Clinical Research Network, and English Pharmacy Board Member at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. As a senior academic and pharmacist of national and international profile, Professor Patel brings decades of experience and knowledge around health inequalities and working with Black, Asian, minority ethnic and disadvantaged groups.

Commenting on the new collaboration for Black, Asian and minority ethnic community engagement, Professor Patel said: “I am delighted and honoured to be joining the PRINCIPLE Trial for this very important work in the crusade against coronavirus, and I look forward to promoting and supporting the wider recruitment of people to the trial through my national pharmacy and community networks.

"There has to be a more concerted and tailored effort to reach out to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities more effectively in health research, particularly in the case of COVID-19 where we are seeing members of these communities unfortunately experiencing a greater risk of contracting the virus with higher adverse effects and even deaths.

“South Asian communities have a different outlook to engaging with health research and studies, and this may the case be with Black and other minority ethnic groups as well. How you reach out to the different communities is vital to ensure proper understanding and confidence is attained owing to people’s different cultural and religious beliefs and attitudes.

"Of course, the more people volunteering to take part in these studies and trials, the greater the likelihood for an effective and safe means of tackling the virus is established. In addition, pharmacists play a valuable role in the community and in primary care and there is an opportunity here to use those channels more effectively in recruiting people from all backgrounds into this trial.”

Find out more about how to take part at www.principletrial.org