Thriving cities, healthier people

Moderated by Rick Badie

What are the essential ingredients to a successful downtown? People, jobs, culture and history, among other factors, according to a guest writer who challenges the state to make its downtowns relevant. The other writer explains “I’m In,” a national campaign with Atlanta ties that wants to increase the role of women and minorities in medical clinical trials.

Downtowns hold high value

By Danny Bivins

Wouldn’t it be silly for a person to walk out into a backyard expecting to see tomato plants in full bloom with ripe fruit, without having ever touched a shovel, planted a seed, watered, weeded or tended the ground? This scenario is highly unlikely. Yet, we can apply this hypothetical scene to how most Georgians view downtowns.

In our past, downtowns were the heart and soul of communities. They were the centers of commerce and information, jobs, goods, entertainment, restaurants and festivals. Then the suburban movement occurred, for a variety of reasons. Most people moved out of city centers and took their commerce with them.

What was once past comes to life again, as more and more people are realizing the value of healthy, vibrant downtowns.

Yet much needs to be done to draw attention to purposefully investing to create these economical and cultural centers. The seeds of possibility have been sown with examples such as Thomasville, Decatur and Rome. However, without proper tending and nurturing, Georgia downtowns cannot reach their full financial and energized potentials.

While many people hold a nostalgic view of downtowns or view them as novelties, they hold the potential to bring about real economic healing for our state. They are “economic engines,” according to the 2011 “Cities and Downtowns: Building Blocks to Recovery,” an executive summary of an assessment of Georgia’s downtowns by the Georgia Municipal Association, Georgia Cities Foundation and University of Georgia.

To harness the wealth afforded by healthy downtowns, more opinions need to be changed about their high value.

What do Georgia downtowns need to become the cultural centerpieces and economic engines they once were? Each needs a strategic plan to tap into its unique cultural and historical identity, along with savvy financial investments. We need to continue to grow a citizen and electorate base knowledgeable of the power of downtowns and willing to advocate for and nurture them.

Danny Bivins is the public service associate with the University of Georgia.

Join the “I’m in” clinical trials campaign

By Gary Puckrein

Whether you’ve taken a medication today to manage a chronic disease or simply keep a headache at bay, you know that medical innovations have the power to change lives. But these breakthroughs don’t just happen. Developing new medicines is a lengthy and complex process, relying heavily on volunteer participation to evaluate potential therapies for safety and effectiveness in clinical studies. Without patients who volunteer for clinical trials, development of new medicines would not be possible.

Research has shown biological and cultural differences can impact how individuals respond to medicines, so clinical testing of the effectiveness of potential new treatments should accurately reflect the patient population that may eventually take them. However, this is simply not happening.

Consider: African-American men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer, yet represent only 4 percent of prostate cancer clinical trial participants. About 13 percent of the U.S. population with Type 2 diabetes is African-American, yet blacks represent less than 5 percent of diabetes clinical trial participants. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, African-Americans represent 12 percent of the U.S. population but only 5 percent of clinical trial participants.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the National Minority Quality Forum recently joined to launch “I’m In,” a national campaign to encourage participation in clinical trials by diverse patient populations. The campaign will empower individuals to learn more about such trials and how they benefit current and future patients as well as local communities.

For the campaign’s first year, we’ve chosen to focus on a few markets with diverse populations and local organizations committed to increasing diversity in clinical trials. Atlanta is one such city, given the area’s many well-respected university medical schools, comprehensive cancer centers and clinical trial research centers that develop innovative new treatments. In fact, nearly 4,900 clinical trials have taken place in Georgia since 1999.

In June, we were honored to work with the Morehouse School of Medicine, a local leader in clinical trials, to address the need for diversity through a summit co-hosted by the school and Pfizer. The I’m In campaign will continue to work with area universities, health care facilities, advocacy groups and physicians to increase awareness about the need for more diverse patient populations to participate.

Every day in Atlanta and beyond, researchers develop solutions to health challenges through clinical trials. Without people who volunteer to participate, this would not be possible. It will require the commitment of all of us to make a difference in the inclusion of diverse patient populations in such trials.

Please join us in saying, “I’m In.”

Gary A. Puckrein is president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit National Minority Quality Forum.

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