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Wearable Research Involves Lower Rates of Participation and Data Collection by Black Children

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Open Network found that Black children and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were less likely to participate in research that involved data collection through wearable devices.

What Is a Wearable Device?

Wearable technology in clinical research refers to devices that attach to a patient’s body to collect health and fitness data. These include fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, and biosensors. 

Study Findings

The study looked at device data collection from more than 10,000 children in an adolescent brain and learning study. The study found that Black children were 59% lower in proportion in the wearable device group, with White children at a 132% higher proportion. Black children and children whose parents earned less than $25,000/year wore the device for shorter times and fewer days. 

Why Limited Data from Racial Minorities Matters in Clinical Research 

Racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented in all types of clinical trials and research. If we are to understand how devices and drugs work for populations, clinical studies must include a diverse group of subjects. Otherwise, all patients will receive care and dosage of drugs based on data from a homogenous white population. 

A Case in Point: Fitbits and Limited Accuracy on Darker Skin

The effect of the lack of research on people of color can be seen in the limited effectiveness of Fitbits and other consumer medical devices using green light. Fitbits and related technologies had been on sale for some time when consumer complaints began that they were inaccurate on people with darker skin. These devices use greenlight technology, which is more readily absorbed by melanin, a skin pigment more prevalent in people with darker skin. Presumably, this issue was not caught earlier because of limited data from individuals with darker skin.

How Researchers Can Encourage Full Involvement by Minority Children

According to the JAMA study’s authors, the following can be done to increase involvement and data collection: 

  • Study participants and their parents must fully understand and give consent and agree to the study’s data collection.
  • The study team should address concerns about data sharing in advance.
  • The study team must work for overall trust of all study participants and their parents. 

For more insights on conducting wearable devices in multicultural research, contact the team members at Ebony Marketing Systems. We are experts at conducting research that reaches people in a new way. For more information, call us at (718)742-0006 or send us a message today.

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