An oncoming heart attack tends to cause back pain and nausea in women and chest pain in men. Diuretics work better to treat hypertension in blacks than in whites. Asian Americans have higher cancer and tuberculosis rates than other ethnic groups and Latinos carry a higher risk to develop diabetes.
That one size doesn’t fit all in understanding and treating disease is a topic for casual conversation around water coolers in many places. In North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park area, it’s a reason to hold a conference.
Dozens of epidemiologists, nurses and community activists spent a whole day talking about health disparities and research to abolish them at N.C. Central University, where the second Clinical Research Education Day took place Saturday.
They talked about the Diabetes Improvement Project in Durham, for example. Launched in 2005, it’s an effort by Duke University, community organizations and churches to improve the health of African American diabetes patients. Diabetes is one of five conditions which disproportionally affect minorities; HIV/AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and obesity are the other four.
They talked about the African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network, or AACORN, a Philadelphia-based initiative that has collaborators at several universities in the RTP area. And they talked about how research programs team up with community activists to overcome racism in biomedical research and to recruit more minority participants for studies.
“No more Tuskegee,” said Sharon Elliott-Bynum, a nurse and founder of CAARE, a community initiative that provides services to homeless veterans, substance abusers, HIV/AIDS patients and seniors. She was referring to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, one of the worst examples of unethical biomedical research in the U.S.
“You can be an agent of change,” Elliott-Bynum added. “But you’ve got to be at the table.”
In an interview with Science in the Triangle, Elliott-Bynum, Lori Carter Edwards of Duke University and Cheryl Woods Giscombe of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill talked about how to improve research and get the study results to address health disparities. Listen to the audiotaped interview: