, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 642-651
Date: 07 Mar 2013

What Do People Really Know and Think About Clinical Trials? A Comparison of Rural and Urban Communities in the South

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Abstract

Clinical trials (CTs) have the potential to provide the most advanced medical treatments and screening options and help medically underserved individuals, including those in rural communities, obtain the medical care they need. Despite the need for access to care, CT participation remains low in rural communities. This study examined what individuals in both rural and urban communities of a Southeastern state know and think about CTs. Nineteen focus groups and eight interviews were conducted statewide with a total of 212 men and women. Discussions assessed participants’ beliefs, perceptions, and sources of information about CTs, and their willingness to participate in a CT. Focus group and interview transcripts were analyzed qualitatively for themes. Urban and rural participants expressed similar beliefs about CTs. Common misperceptions were that CTs were intended for people who could not afford care and that completing a survey or participating in a focus group constituted a CT. Rural residents believed that CTs involved deception more often than urban residents, and they were less willing than urban residents to participate in a CT in the future. Urban residents more frequently discussed their distrust of the medical system as a reason for not wanting to participate. Many individuals expressed that their participation would depend on whether their doctor recommended it or whether the trial would benefit a family member’s health. Findings have important implications for health communication. Messages should be developed to address misperceptions of rural and urban communities and convey the importance of CT participation to promote and protect the health of their communities.