Clinical studies published in high-profile medical journals rarely report on income or other key socio-demographic characteristics of study participants, a new study suggests that these gaps can lead to blind spots in health care, especially for disadvantaged populations.
The study, published this month in JAMA network open, analyzed 10% of 2,351 randomized clinical trials conducted in. were published New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, The BMJ, The Lancet, and Internal Medicine Annals between January 1, 2014 and July 31, 2020.
The most frequently reported sociodemographic variables were gender and gender (in 98.7% of the studies) and race / ethnicity (in 48.5%). All other socio-demographic data (such as income, literacy or educational level, language preference or residential status) were given in less than 15% of the studies.
“Randomized trials can only work for everyone if they involve everyone,” said Dr. Aaron Orkin, researcher and ambulance at Unity Health Toronto’s St. Joseph’s Health Center, who led the study. “The results of randomized trials affect everyone because they determine how we promote health and how we diagnose and treat diseases. If studies do not report the characteristics of the people examined, there is no way of knowing whether the results of the study apply to all population groups. “
The study found that 14.3% of the studies examined reported educational level or literacy, 5.9% reported income or socioeconomic status, and 4.6% reported details about participants based on a social determinant of health such as health insurance or employment status contained.
“People exposed to discrimination or disadvantage should have confidence that the research that benefits them is inclusive,” said Dr. Nav Persaud, researcher at the MAP Center for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital of Unity Health Toronto and co-author of the paper.
The authors argue that the experiences and consequences of an illness will vary depending on culture, race, income level, life situation, gender, and other variables. Studying a disease and treating it in limited groups ultimately limits the applicability of the research. The authors hope to use the initial information from this study to focus on reporting social determinants in studies in specific disease areas and to change the standards in the conduct of research.
Edited by Gary Cramer