By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant
Because the medication of tomorrow will be tailored to individuals, it is important that minorities take part in research so that advancements can include drugs that are unique to people of different cultures, ethnic backgrounds and geographical locations. This is the message health providers gave to attendees at an All of Us Research Program event at Benville Missionary Baptist Church in Cottondale on July 7.
During a presentation on precision medicine, attendees were encouraged to give research participation a try.
“Precision medicine is an emerging approach to fighting disease-specific problems. It’s a radical shift from what we are doing now,” said Colleen Leners, director of policy at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing in Washington, D.C. “We are looking not only at your lifestyle, but your environment, as well as your genetic profile.”
Leners came to Alabama to help people of color understand there must never be another study like the unethical Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service on African-American men during five decades beginning in 1932.
Instead, she explained, unless people of color participate in research, there will be no breakthroughs in healthcare related to diseases unique to them.
“What we are hoping to do with this data is to make medications that work for you. It’s the right medication for the right person,” said Leners, a former military nurse practitioner. “We don’t give everyone the same set of eye glasses. We don’t give everybody the same blood. So, why are we giving everybody the same blood pressure medication and the same dosage?”
Often people of color, she said, do not respond to medication and they lose time and money on treatments that do not work for them. “We didn’t do the research on people of color. Most medications today are tailored to white males ages 40 to 65 because that is where the majority of the research has been done,” she said.
All of Us is a large data collection research campaign aimed at gathering information on one million people of color. “We want to get this information to people of color to see if they would like to get involved in research,” Leners said. “They have been isolated and haven’t been asked to participate; and when they have been asked, quite frankly, it always hasn’t been fair.” (For more about the All of Us Research Program, see https://www.joinallofus.org.)
Annette Harris, who has been a registered nurse for more than 20 years, is one of the Saving Lives Advocates for Benville. In order to complete Benville’s Saving Lives Academy project, she said she wanted to bring the research presentation to the church as a new outreach initiative.
“The church is a foundation in the community for getting information out to the public,” Harris said. “It’s been slow-go, but we’re getting there.”
Dr. Betty Key and Dr. Mercy Mumba, assistant professors of nursing instruction, wrote a grant to work with the National Institutes of Health to help bring the All of Us program to the faith-based community in the Tuscaloosa area. The program was brought to Benville through collaboration with UA’s Capstone College of Nursing.
“We both are looking at cardiovascular research using faith-based organizations,” Key said. “We saw it as a good way to get more African-Americans involved in research, so that African-Americans will have a seat at the table regarding healthcare because it does matter.”
Saving Lives is under the direction of Dr. Nicole B. Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs. To learn more about the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 205-348-9819.