, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 417-422

Community Health Workers’ Support for Cancer Clinical Trials: Description and Explanation

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Ethnic differences in participation in cancer clinical trials slow advances in medical knowledge that can reduce health care disparities. Community health workers (CHWs) are an increasingly important bridge between the health care system and underserved communities and could play an important role in increasing rates of clinical trial participation. We investigated community health workers’ orientations to medical research and cancer clinical trials with a mixed methods design: two focus groups, 11 intensive interviews, and a structured survey of 76 CHW training workshop participants. CHWs demonstrated high levels of commitment to improving the health of community members but considerable distrust of researchers’ motives, low levels of knowledge about cancer clinical trials, and frequent perceptions of bias in the health care system. Support for research is associated with more research experience, self-assessed knowledge, and Hispanic ethnicity, but with less seniority as a CHW. Neither actual knowledge of cancer clinical trials nor perceptions of bias in the health care system were related to degree of support for medical research. Community health workers perceive bias in the health care system but recognize the importance of medical research and are interested in learning more about cancer clinical trials. Research experience increases support for medical research; education increases perceptions of health care system bias.

This research was funded by the National Cancer Institute as a component of the Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center—University of Massachusetts Boston collaborative project, 1U56CA118641-01.