Before medications and treatments can be deemed safe and effective for the masses, they are rigorously studied in a process called clinical trials. During clinical trials, medical professionals move through four testing phases to evaluate how a new medical, surgical, or behavioral intervention performs in people. It goes without saying this method of clinical research is invaluable to human health.

However, a glaring issue has plagued clinical trials for decades: lack of diversity amongst participants. This year, a new study analyzed 230 US-based clinical trials with 219, 555 participants. Researchers found Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Hispanic or Latino people, and older adults were underrepresented.1 It’s also important to note members of the LGBTQ+ community, people living in rural or hard-to-reach geographies, native Americans or other indigenous populations, and global citizens are also underrepresented in medical research.

The lack of representation in clinical trials contributes to the current health disparities in the United States. And their predominant reliance on white patients underscores socio-economic and geographic divides in healthcare (more on that ahead). The long-standing issue has prompted some medical experts to find ways to reimagine the traditional practices of clinical trials and improve healthcare.