Mass Incarceration of Black Men Causes Lack of Healthcare Research for Advancement


via Think Progress

The United States’ racially biased criminal justice system is having an unintended consequence on medical innovation, according to a new study published in the Health Affairs journal. Researchers suggest that, due to the mass incarceration of African American men in this country, clinical trials are having trouble getting enough black participants — something that’s preventing scientists from adequately examine racial disparities in health outcomes.

Black men in this country have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to the Department of Justice, and the United States now imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did during the height of apartheid. The racial biases that contribute to those sobering statistics have been well-documented. What’s perhaps less well known is the significant impact on clinical research.

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“A black man who begins a research study is less likely to follow up because he is statistically more likely to be jailed or imprisoned during the study than his white counterpart,” Dr. Emily Wang, the new study’s lead author and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine, explained.

People participating in ongoing studies must be dropped from the trial if they’re arrested and jailed, thanks to the federal government’s restriction on the use of prison inmates in scientific research.