Dr. Roger Wong Discusses Recruitment Strategies for Dementia Studies for Aging and Equity Series

by Adam Felts

The latest installment of the MIT AgeLab’s Aging and Equity speaker series featured Dr. Roger Wong, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University, on disparities in dementia among racial and ethnic groups, and strategies to increase diversity in biomedical aging research.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that affect memory and other thinking abilities sufficiently to interfere with daily life, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Lewy body dementia, among others. One in 9 older adults has dementia, and one-third of adults over the age of 85 has Alzheimer’s disease.

Racial and ethnic minorities (or, broadly, people who identify as Black, Hispanic, or Asian) have higher rates of dementia diagnosis than White Americans. At the same time, racial and ethnic minorities tend to be understudied in dementia research, despite their greater vulnerability. One reason for the lack of exploration of these groups’ experiences is that they are harder to recruit into research, for reasons including mistrust of medical authorities, lack of resources to participate in research, and language barriers.

One research study conducted by Dr. Wong aimed to understand recruitment and retainment strategies for studies of dementia with racial and ethnic minorities. He found that the most promising recruitment strategies involved community outreach through local organizations and collaboration with local healthcare providers. For retainment, performing follow-up communication with participants and maintaining community relationships were the most promising strategies.

Dr. Wong also presented a second study on the effectiveness of a community review board to guide recruitment for dementia studies. The review board was made up of caregivers, clinicians, community members, and researchers in the local upstate New York area. In the study, the board reviewed three research studies in advance of their administration to participants, providing guidance on recruitment and retainment of older adult research participants. Incorporating community input into study recruitment, Dr. Wong said, shows promise for increasing participant diversity in research studies involving biomedical aging research.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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