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BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Walmart is launching the Walmart Healthcare Research Institute (WHRI) to increase community access to health care research that may help lead to safer, higher quality and more equitable health care, the company announced October 11.

Walmart said WHRI will be focused on innovative interventions and medications that can make a difference in underrepresented communities including older adults, rural residents, women and minority populations. WHRI initially is focused on inclusion in studies on treatments for chronic conditions and innovative treatments that should include members from these communities.

“At Walmart, we want to help ensure all our customers have access to high quality, affordable, and convenient health care resources, including innovative research,” said Dr. John Wigneswaran, Walmart’s chief medical officer. “We know our customers are interested in participating in health care research, but many have not had access until now. We are already making an impact for our customers and for medical research, by raising patient trust and engagement in their care.”

For decades, clinical trials have not been representative of the population at large and often recruit participants who live near research centers, have the time, and have the financial ability to participate, the company said.

Walmart cited U.S. Food and Drug Administration data suggesting that in 2020, 75% of trial participants were white, 11% were Hispanic, 8% were Black, and 6% were Asian.

WHRI already demonstrating strong results

Walmart is focused on studies that can have a health equity impact in the communities it serves and represent all populations. 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 company said in announcing the initiative.

Walmart said it is working with a wide range of study partners, including clinical research organizations, pharmaceutical companies and leading academic medical centers, including CTI Clinical Trial & Consulting Services and Laina Enterprises.

WHRI is already demonstrating strong results, with a referral rate three times the industry benchmark, Walmart said.

“The efforts by Walmart in research are innovative and impactful – it is clear that the intention behind their foray into this space is to genuinely make a difference for patients of all ages, race and gender in their ability to access research,” said Bill Hawkins, chairman of Duke University Health. “This initiative will support individual patient health as well as the health of numerous communities home to Walmart stores.”

To help make it easier for research patients to simplify their care, Walmart launched MyHealthJourney, a digital tool that lets patients take control of their own data through easy access to their eligible medical records and insurance information online in one place. With MyHealthJourney, patients receive reminders for care services and research opportunities to help them keep their health on track.

Walmart’s Healthcare Research Institute is an extension of Walmart’s long-standing commitment to helping expand access to patients and underrepresented populations. The retailer has demonstrated this through low-cost medicines such as, $4 generic medication program and private label Relion insulin, high-quality health care at Walmart Health Centers and Vision Centers, partnerships and programs to address Social Determinants of Health, and now the opportunity to enroll in health care research.