Walmart announced on Tuesday that it is establishing an institute to engage in medical research with the goal of health care that is “safer, higher quality and more equitable.”
The company said in a release that the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute will focus on “innovative interventions” and medicines that can make a difference for underrepresented individuals, like older adults, rural residents, women and “minority populations.”
The release states that the institute will be initially focused on studies for treatments for chronic conditions that include members of these communities.
“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable and convenient healthcare resources, including innovative research,” said John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s chief medical officer.
The release states that clinical trials have not been representative of the population at large and that participants are often those who live near research centers and have the time and financial standing to participate.
Food and Drug Administration data from 2020 showed that 75 percent of trial participants were white, while 11 percent were Hispanic, 8 percent were Black and 6 percent were Asian, according to the release.
“Walmart is focused on studies that can have a health equity impact in the communities it serves and represent all populations,” the release states. “With 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart, the retailer can offer solutions to care by meeting customers and patients where they live and work.”
The release states that Walmart will work with partners like clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and academic medical centers.
Wigneswaran told Axios that the institute will start with treatments for diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, COVID-19 and asthma, which most impact underrepresented communities. It will also consider research on conditions like HIV and dementia.
“We’re filling an important need because we have 150 million people coming through the stores, we have a very deep relationship with these customers and we also know their clinical histories so we’re able to find the appropriate patients for those studies,” he said.
Wigneswaran said the institute will have an independent review board and clinical advisory board conduct oversight to ensure the most beneficial trials are chosen and patients receive appropriate messaging.