ULG's Language Services Blog

Multicultural Communication in Clinical Trials: How to Prepare for Your Participants’ Language Needs

Diverse pools of participants in clinical trials are not only important for producing the best set of data, but they also help advance health equity. To reach both goals, you need multicultural communication that attracts interested parties and retains them for the duration of the trial.

Having a localization strategy to reach individuals in the demographics you need for your trial will be key to data integrity. Here are some reasons effective multicultural communication matters for your clinical trial and some ways to achieve it.


The Benefits of Multicultural Communication in Clinical Trials

The ultimate goal of your clinical trial is to produce the most accurate set of data possible. Clinical trials require large numbers of people to participate, and you should be intentional about recruiting a diverse group of subjects. Black, Hispanic, and Asian-American representation in clinical trials lags behind that of white Americans, which skews results and perpetuates the lack of health equity amongst minority populations. 

Recruiting and retaining participants from a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds—and providing them with the professional translation and interpretive solutions they need—will help ensure your trial is conducted with the highest level of integrity. Scientists around the world developed vaccines to minimize the risk of COVID-19 in record time. In large part, this was due to the wide variety of participants in clinical trials—socioeconomically, racially, ethnically, and from a number of generations in cities all over the globe—whose participation provided researchers with robust data sets. 

Mitigating the possibility of skewed results because your trial contributors are overwhelmingly white is both more efficient and cost-effective. You avoid the possibility of having to conduct a second trial, pause your current trial to recruit multicultural participants, or start over with a more balanced group.


Recruiting a Diverse Group of Subjects

As you plan for your trial, clearly define the demographic you need and the languages they traditionally speak, even if some individuals who show interest have lived in this country for generations. Learn about words and phrases that, when translated from English, could offend your target audience—or worse, scare them away from your trial. A language solutions partner that understands when messaging and tone go further than word-for-word translation can help you avoid these pitfalls.

You have a real opportunity to form authentic connections with participants, so keep your message personal by steering clear of medical jargon, and avoid assuming that someone who is multilingual doesn’t necessarily read in every language they speak. Prepare messaging in a variety of formats, such as multilingual posters, and establish a strategic approach for reaching potential patients. For example, younger groups communicate through social media while older groups may respond more readily to traditional advertising on TV or on the radio. 


Retaining Your Clinical Trial Subjects

After they’ve agreed to take part in your clinical trial, non-English speakers will need support to remain engaged. 

Professional interpreters play an integral role in retaining multicultural participants and are much more effective in the long run than the use of ad-hoc interpreters such as the individual’s family members. A study from the National Institutes of Health found there was greater comprehension and fewer errors with a professional interpreter. In a clinical care scenario, having a professional interpreter involved raised the level of care among limited-English proficiency (LEP) patients to that of patients without language needs.

Another study from BioMed Central, a leading open-source science publisher, concurs. Historically, low rates of participation in cancer-related clinical trials by LEP patients correspond to higher rates of the disease among those populations. The conclusion summary spells out the need for multicultural communication and to “engage interpreters and adopt recruitment and study materials in different languages” to ensure a more well-rounded set of data and potentially improve treatment results among minority populations.

When you’re ready to deploy a comprehensive approach to attracting and retaining a multicultural pool of participants for your clinical trial, please reach out to our language solution experts.


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