Special populations recruitment for the Women's Health Initiative: successes and limitations

Control Clin Trials. 2004 Aug;25(4):335-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2004.03.005.


The Women's Health Initiative (WHI) is a study designed to examine the major causes of death and disability in women. This multi-arm, randomized, controlled trial of over 160,000 post-menopausal women of varying ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds and a goal of 20% of the study participants from minority populations is perhaps one of the most challenging recruitment efforts ever undertaken. Of the two main study arms, the Clinical Trial (CT) and the Observational Study (OS), the CT arm recruitment goal was to randomize 64,500 postmenopausal women 50-79 years of age. Women enrolled in the study will be followed for a period of 8-12 years. Ten clinical centers, out of a total of 40 throughout the United States, were selected as minority recruitment centers on the basis of their history of interaction with and access to large numbers of women from certain population subgroups. WHI enrollment began in September 1993 and ended in December 1998, resulting in the randomization and enrollment of a total of 161,856 (17.5% minority) women participants (68,135 (18.5% minority) in the CT and 93,721 (16.7%) in the OS). Within the CT arm, WHI achieved 101.7% of the goal of 48,000 participants in the Dietary Modification (DM) component, and 99.4% of the goal of 27,500 in the hormone-replacement component (HRT), with 11.8% overlap between DM and HRT. Of those who expressed initial interest in WHI, African Americans had the highest randomization yields in the DM component and Hispanics had the highest in the HRT component (15.2% and 10.2%, respectively). Overall, mass mailing was the greatest source of randomized participants. In addition, minority clinics found community outreach, personal referrals, and culturally appropriate recruitment materials particularly effective recruitment tools. For minority recruitment, our findings suggest that the key to high yield is reaching the target population through appropriate recruitment strategies and study information that get their attention. Also, once minority subjects are reached, they tend to participate.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Death*
  • Demography
  • Diet Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Disability Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection*
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Postmenopause
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women's Health*