SPOTLIGHT | March 07, 2022

Animated Video Aims to Increase Trial Participation Among Communities of Color

Animations are fun to watch. And when done well, they can also strike the right tone and inspire action.  

Given the challenges of encouraging the recruitment of people of color into trials for the COVID-19 vaccine, the Louisiana CEAL research team wanted to try a new way to reach underrepresented groups and encourage participation. They partnered with Louisiana-based NoiseFilter, an educational platform that addresses health and wellness through creative storytelling, to develop an animated video that discusses concerns about clinical trials in a way that is entertaining, sensitive, and informative.  

M.A. "Tonette" Krousel-Wood, M.D., M.S.P.H., a physician and researcher at Tulane University who leads the Louisiana CEAL research team, described the project as a collaborative effort. In addition to working with the two physicians with expertise in health communication at NoiseFilter, MarkAlain Déry, D.O., M.P.H., and Eric D. Griggs, M.D., (known as Doc Griggs), they consulted communication strategists at Tulane University and Xavier University of Louisiana and their community partners to develop the video.  

“We worked with our partners to determine the type of messaging that might resonate best in their communities around inclusive participation in clinical trials,” Dr. Krousel-Wood explained. The partners felt that local communities would respond best to “hyper-local messaging” from celebrities they recognized. Grammy award-winning Irma Thomas — known as the Soul Queen of New Orleans — fit the bill perfectly. “She’s the voice and the soul of New Orleans,” said Dr. Déry.  

“We won’t be able to increase participation among minority populations until we address the elephant in the room. We have to acknowledge the wrongs that have occurred. That is the real crux of the video.”

MarkAlain Déry, D.O., M.P.H.

The three-minute video takes a fun approach but addresses a serious topic. “We wanted to address the structural racism that exists, especially here in the South, because we live in the very long shadow of Tuskegee,” said Dr. Déry, referring to The Tuskegee Study, an unethical research project in which Black men were not treated for syphilis so that scientists could observe the natural progression of the disease. The study, which started in the 1930s, involved major violations of ethical standards and was eventually shut down in 1972. News coverage and outcry about the study led to laws and policies that now protect clinical trial participants. 

Addressing this issue head-on was critical. Dr. Déry stated, “We won’t be able to increase participation among minority populations until we address the elephant in the room. We have to acknowledge the wrongs that have occurred.” He added, “That is the real crux of the video.” 

The Louisiana CEAL research team and its partners are now working to publicize and distribute the video, titled “Clinical Trials: The Heart and Soul of Science,” through social media and news stories. They are also coordinating with community partners to play the video in waiting rooms at Federally Qualified Health Centers to raise awareness of inclusive participation in clinical trials. 

This video is the first in a series that the Louisiana CEAL team is working on, Dr. Krousel-Wood explained. The next one will show what it’s like to participate in a clinical trial.