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How can the medical communications industry improve equity, diversity and inclusion?

The COVID-19 pandemic, significantly impacting the whole world through 2020, continues to affect everyone and every industry. In addition, the increased attention to the challenges faced by marginalised populations, such as through the Black Lives Matter movement, has highlighted further urgent issues that need to be addressed. These two occurrences have collided to produce a pressing obligation for the medical communications industry: improving equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the field and in healthcare more widely.

As outlined in the recent call to action in the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) newsletter, the medical publication and communications industry had already been taking steps to increase EDI through encouraging patient centricity in publications and improving the availability of scientific publications. With the COVID-19 pandemic, these endeavours have become increasingly urgent as health disparities have become more apparent, and as the public are asked to grapple with scientific data as part of their daily news consumption.

ISMPP has emphasised two best practices to tackle these issues: open access publishing and publication plain language summaries (PLS). By ensuring that their studies are published in open access journals, researchers can improve the accessibility of their work, leading to greater transparency and equity in healthcare treatment and decision making. Publication PLS further improve accessibility of scientific research, empowering patients—including those from disadvantaged backgrounds—to actively participate in their healthcare. Alongside ISMPP, the American Medical Writers Association and the Society for Scholarly Publishing have also made calls to improve EDI, while a recent MedComms Networking webinar tackled the topic of EDI in the medical communications industry.

Alongside continuing to prepare PLS and publish open access, the call to action puts forward a roadmap for achieving EDI in medical communications, with steps including advocating diversity in clinical trial participation, authorship and presentations. The article also highlights that, as part of the medical communications industry, we must always prioritise patients’ needs and work to increase EDI.

“As custodians of communicating medical research, it is our responsibility to ensure that meeting patients’ needs is always at the forefront of the work that we do.”

While issues of EDI won’t be solved overnight, these efforts set the industry on the right track at a time when immediate action is needed to ensure that patients’ needs are being met.


Summary by Kristian Clausen MPH from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsor, Aspire Scientific Ltd

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