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Asthma research 'misses minorities'

Tuesday October 13th, 2009

British research into asthma is lagging behind the USA in the way it treats ethnic minorities, it was claimed last night.

Many British researchers are reluctant to take steps to involve ethnic minorities in research, according to a study by Edinburgh University.

Sometimes this is because of practical difficulties, such as language, and sometimes a lack of understanding of other cultures.

Writing in the journal PLoS Medicine, Professor Aziz Sheikh contrasts the British approach with the USA, where the authorities require ethnic minorities to be included in publicly funded research.

The findings come from interviews with 36 researchers in the UK and USA and with ten community leaders from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Professor Sheikh said: "The crucial question from a policy perspective is whether the UK needs or is indeed ready for a US National Institutes of Health type policy on recruitment of minority ethnic groups.

"This work demonstrates that such a policy would be unpopular in the UK. However, the US example suggests that if introduced appropriately, initial resentment can give way to conviction and a change of attitudes."

The findings were backed by charity Asthma UK.

Dr Elaine Vickers, of Asthma UK, said: "Britain is an ethnically diverse country and in order for new treatments to be effective for everyone, it is crucial that this diversity is represented in those taking part in scientific research.

"It is already well established that clinical trials should be representative in terms of age and gender in order to make the data more robust and dependable. Cultural background is just as important."

PLoS Med 6(10): e1000148.doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000148.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | North America | UK News

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