Walgreens & CISCRP Emphasize the Importance of Clinical Trials at Expo

The recent Black Women’s Expo in Chicago was all about uplifting Black women by providing them with the tools and resources necessary to lead healthier, more fulfilled lives.

From the sponsors to the exhibits and informational sessions, the three-day event was about the betterment of Black women physically, mentally and spiritually.

One point of emphasis during the Expo was the importance of addressing the gap in Black women’s participation in clinical trials, where they are severely underrepresented and lack access to potentially life-saving treatment.

Black Women’s Expo sponsor Walgreens was at the forefront in addressing this topic.

“Walgreens had a clear and impactful plan for outreach and engagement at this year’s Black Women’s Expo,” said Alethia Jackson, Senior Vice President (SVP) of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Officer for Walgreens.

“Recognizing the critically low representation in clinical trials, our sponsorship was centered on enlightening the community and driving change for improved health outcomes,” Jackson said.

Though heart disease and stroke rates have been improving, those diseases remain the No. 1 and No. 3 killers of Black women in the U.S., reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Furthermore, cancer remains the second-leading cause of death for Black women, who are more likely to die from breast and cervical cancer than any other demographic.

Tragically, Black women are often left out of gaining access to treatments for illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Yet, the problem of a lack of access and participation in clinical trials is not just exclusive to them.

At the Expo, Kendal Whitlock, the Head of Digital Optimization, Clinical Trials at Walgreens Boots Alliance, unveiled critical data pointing to a dire reality: only 5 percent of people engage in clinical trials, according to Jackson.

“This limited representation leads to the development of treatments and medications based on a fraction of the population, hindering our understanding of their impact, particularly on Black individuals.”

CISCRP: Raising Awareness of the Importance of Clinical Trials

The need for Black women to have access to clinical trials is more acute than ever.

That was the message that the Boston-based Center For Info & Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP) amplified as an exhibitor and informational session sponsor at the Expo.

During the Saturday, August 5 portion of the Expo, CISCRP sponsored a panel titled “Breaking Barriers: Empowering Health through Information,” about raising awareness and debunking myths around clinical trials.

The panel featured Racquel Bruton, Associate Director, Clinical Operations Program Lead at Biogen; Wenora Y. Johnson, a three-time Cancer survivor and patient advocate; Lynne Jordan, a clinical trial participant for the COVID-19 vaccine and Dr. Kyla Smith, a pediatrician and clinical trial advocate.

Each panelist invariably touched on the shortage of Black women participating and having access to clinical trials, especially concerning breast cancer and other ailments. Johnson talked about her three-time cancer survivor experience and role as a patient advocate. In particular, she addressed the need to help patients receive mental health services while undergoing cancer treatment.

Bruton shared insights from her 20 years in clinical research, outlining the clinical trials process and sources of information for people interested in them. Jordan discussed her experience as a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial participant and the reticence she observed that other people of color had in participating.

Finally, Dr. Smith shared her experience as an advocate for clinical trials, also providing information where interested parties can access them.

In all, dozens of people attended the session, with guests asking the panelists questions, sharing their experiences with terminal illnesses or asking for advice and encouragement from the four Black women on that panel.

Black Women’s Expo: A Transformative Event for Women’s Health

Ultimately, the Black Women’s Expo’s goal was to ensure attendees had a transformative and life-affirming experience. The thousands who attended were treated to the valuable insights from motivational speakers and regaled by well-known musical guests.

However, the hope is that they came away from the Expo armed with knowledge and health information that can have a lasting impact.

The good news is there is sufficient and verifiable data from the event that helps to support that objective, according to Walgreens.

“From this year’s Expo, we gathered invaluable insights into the power of education and engagement,” said Jackson. “Our sponsorship’s emphasis on informing the community and driving transformative health outcomes returned significant lessons.

Jackson added, “Addressing attendee questions on clinical trials proves to be critical in bridging participation gaps.”

Moreover, Walgreens pharmacists delivered over 5,000 healthcare services, including valuable procedures such as immunizations, blood pressure screenings and consultations, Jackson said.

“Our team members listened and learned from each interaction.”

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