An Alabama group is working to encourage more minorities to take part in clinical trials through the spread of information from “trusted sources.”
#NowIncluded, an effort backed by Acclinate, hopes to educate the community and empower them to take control of their health.
“Should I wear a mask? Should I not wear a mask? Should I get a vaccine? When can I get the vaccine? All of those questions can be answered, but we have to have trusted partners to be able to disseminate that information,” Tiffany Whitlow, the company's co-founder and chief development officer, said.
On Thursday, a new partner came into the picture as New York Mets catcher Bruce Maxwell, a Sparkman High School alum, was activated as a brand ambassador for #NowIncluded.
Maxwell doesn't often make it back to North Alabama, but coronavirus has afforded him a unique opportunity to spend time in the community where he was raised. He is currently getting in shape for spring training in Madison.
As a new ambassador for the effort, Maxwell said he’s eager to help share important information to level the playing field for everyone.
"At the end of the day, it's about educating everybody about their healthcare, about their fair opportunities, about their livelihood,” he said.
Maxwell said he didn't have many professional role models to look to growing up, one of the reasons he felt so strongly about being part of the effort.
Whitlow says figures like Maxwell will play a big role in reaching as many people as they can.
She praised the efforts of leaders like Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, who rolled up his sleeves with several other community leaders Wednesday to get vaccinated, but she believes people like Maxwell can help cast a wider net.
"We need to make sure that we're also thinking about younger generations and who they look up and who their influencers are,” Whitlow said. “Most of the time, it's an athlete. I already trusted -- I look up to them, I wanted a lifestyle like them, so it's an easier way for us to get to multiple generations."
It’s the group's hope that by having “trusted sources” like Maxwell or even local coaches disseminating the information, they can get more people involved in the clinical trials -- which they hope will, in turn, make them more comfortable getting the vaccine when it is available.
"Clinical trials are how drugs are developed, so if we're afraid to participate in a clinical trial, that ultimately means that drugs will not work when we are relying on drugs to work. So it's almost a matter of being proactive instead of reactive versus being reactive,” Whitlow said.
According to data from Pfizer, Black Americans only make up 5% of clinical trial participants. Latin Americans only account for 1%.