Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Addressing Disparities in Health Research, Grant Funding, and Recruitment of Black Women to Breast Cancer Clinical Trials


  • Katherine Vogel Indiana University School of Medicine https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5735-6468
  • Oseme Precious Okoruwa Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Katherine E. Ridley-Merriweather, MA Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Susan G. Komen Tissue Bank, Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Krista J. Hoffman-Longtin Indiana University School of Medicine; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
  • Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, PhD Indiana University School of Medicine; Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis




Background and Objective: On this literature review and textual analysis, we apply theories from health communication and psychology to better understand the cultural and structural factors that may discourage Black women’s participation in clinical trials, paying particular attention to the public and private organizations and agencies that fund this research. We use breast cancer clinical trials as an extended example to illustrate the wider issue of a lack of funding for formative and community-based research.

Design: We begin by reviewing the recruitment of Black women to breast cancer research and identifying themes in the literature where gaps exist. We then examine the social and organizational psychology literature on influencing the recruitment of women and racial/ethnic minorities, suggesting this field may be helpful for addressing the recognized gaps. Throughout the work, we identify points at which disparities may arise. We suggest that these theoretical approaches are helpful in reducing disparities and illuminating the structural factors that discourage participation from minoritized groups. Finally, we suggest future research opportunities for using these perspectives to increase participation of Black women in breast cancer and other health research.

Results: Researchers could benefit from employing psychology principles of contingency cues and identity safety when recruiting Black women into clinical trials, especially for breast cancer. Further, funding organizations such as the NIH must fund formative research which seeks out the voices of Black women and other marginalized populations to fully address and eliminate health disparities.

Conclusions: This work highlights the need for increased cross-sectional literature in the fields of communication and psychology. As scholars explore directions for future research, we encourage them to consider the expertise of Black women, themselves, in solving these problems.