DOI: 10.1002/alz.073810 ISSN: 1552-5260

Age‐specific Barriers and Facilitators to Research Participation Among Underrepresented African Americans

Nicole R. Nissim, Michelle R. Fudge, Christian Lachner, John A. Lucas, Neill R Graff‐Radford, Gregory S. Day
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Health Policy
  • Epidemiology



African Americans experience a high dementia burden yet are critically underrepresented in observational studies and clinical trials in memory and aging. Lack of adequate representation increases the likelihood that research findings may not generalize to African Americans. A deeper understanding of the barriers and facilitators that influence participation by younger and older African American adults is needed to support recruitment and retention in studies focused on early‐ and late‐onset neurodegenerative diseases.


African American community leaders collaborated in design of an electronic survey that was distributed via social media focused on local zip codes. Survey respondents rated barriers and facilitators to research participation on a 0–3‐point Likert scale. Responses ≥2 corresponded with barriers/facilitators likely to influence participation decisions. Differences across age groups were evaluated using nonparametric Kruskal‐Wallis tests. Strategies to mitigate barriers and reinforce facilitators were further explored via community‐based focus groups.


Survey data included responses from 240 African Americans (18‐44‐years, n = 76; 45‐64‐years, n = 83; ≥65‐years, n = 81). Requirement to undergo a diagnostic lumbar puncture was a substantial barrier to research participation across all age groups. Attending weekday visits (median = 2.0), including visits ≥2 hours (median 2.0), was a substantial barrier for individuals 18‐44‐years, but not older respondents (p = 0.001). Compensation for meals/transportation was beneficial across all age groups (median = 2.0; p<0.05). The option to attend visits in the local community or on weekends and access to door‐to‐door transportation were substantial facilitators for respondents <65‐years (median = 2.0) vs ≥65‐years (median = 0; p = 0.001). The option to complete some tests at home was a substantial facilitator for younger (18‐44‐years, median = 2.0) but not older respondents (≥65‐years, median = 0; p = 0.001). Focus group results supported survey findings and showed slight variations in priorities across age groups. Older participants (≥65‐years‐old) more frequently cited the longstanding effects of racism as a barrier to research participation compared to younger participants (45‐64‐years‐old; p = 0.008), who more frequently cited concerns regarding testing requirements (p = 0.034).


Perceived barriers and facilitators to research participation vary with age. Age‐specific strategies are needed to increase engagement, address disparities in recruitment, and promote retention of African American participants in studies of memory and aging across the lifespan.

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