Oregon Health & Science University acknowledges that we could have done a better job engaging Black, Indigenous and People of Color in the design and implementation of the Key to Oregon Study. This has resulted in real concerns with regards to racial equity and inclusion. For this, we sincerely apologize and are grateful to the community members who brought these concerns to our attention.
OHSU recognizes that, historically, systemic racism and colonialism have shaped scientific research, and we are beginning to understand the role injustice plays in study design and implementation. Racism still exists in research studies and institutions across the world today. Key to Oregon is no exception.
Key to Oregon team members have been actively working with, and learning from, leaders, advocates, research scientists and physicians representing a BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Scientific and Data Council to ensure the Key to Oregon study integrates inclusive, trauma-informed and decolonizing research processes that will effectively address the needs of the priority communities most impacted by COVID-19. Together, we are working to implement a co-constructed research strategy that will include the needs of and benefit underrepresented communities.
We are creating a project charter, expected to be finalized in the coming weeks, that outlines and ensures shared language, values and decision-making to help overcome racism and dominance. Community and tribal members will also be invited to join a study steering committee and other workgroups, and will be compensated for their time.
Since Key to Oregon began recruitment efforts less than two months ago, nearly 9,000 Oregonians have joined the study. While active recruitment efforts continue this week with the goal of increasing enrollment rates, study researchers believe the current cohort of study participants is sufficient to begin monitoring the prevalence of COVID-19 statewide. Data compiled will be shared with state officials beginning the first week of August and will help to inform decision-making processes specific to statewide infection rates.
Key to Oregon has begun COVID-19 symptom monitoring and testing. Following a temporary delay, the study has secured at-home testing kits, approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Bluetooth enabled “smart” thermometers are being shipped to all enrolled participants, and self-collected nasal swab test kits will be mailed to participants who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms. Testing for asymptomatic study participants will begin in the coming weeks as testing capacity beyond clinical need is available.
OHSU and the Key to Oregon study team thank community members statewide for their ongoing engagement and partnership. We look forward to collaboratively working with the community to improve the Key to Oregon study for the benefit all Oregonians, and to provide data that will help keep Oregon open and safe.
As researchers, health care providers and educators, we acknowledge that a history of racism and colonialism has harmed marginalized communities. We must do better, and we are committed to ensuring this research represents – and benefits – the needs of all Oregonians.