Recruitment and retention strategies in longitudinal clinical studies with low-income populations

Contemp Clin Trials. 2011 May;32(3):353-62. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2011.01.007. Epub 2011 Jan 27.


Background: Conducting longitudinal research studies with low-income and/or minority participants present a unique set of challenges and opportunities.

Purpose: To outline the specific strategies employed to successfully recruit and retain participants in a longitudinal study of nutritional anticipatory guidance during early childhood, conducted with a low-income, ethnically diverse, urban population of mothers.

Methods: We describe recruitment and retention efforts made by the research team for the 'MOMS' Study (Making Our Mealtimes Special). The 'multilayered' approach for recruitment and retention included commitment of research leadership, piloting procedures, frequent team reporting, emphasis on participant convenience, incentives, frequent contact with participants, expanded budget, clinical staff buy-in, a dedicated phone line, and the use of research project branding and logos.

Results: Barriers to enrollment were not encountered in this project, despite recruiting from a low-income population with a large proportion of African-American families. Process evaluation with clinic staff demonstrated the perception of the MOMS staff was very positive. Participant retention rate was 75% and 64% at 6 months and 12 months post-recruitment, respectively. We attribute retention success largely to a coordinated effort between the research team and the infrastructure support at the clinical sites, as well as project branding and a dedicated phone line.

Conclusions: Successful participant recruitment and retention approaches need to be specific and consistent with clinical staff buy in throughout the project.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Communication
  • Diet
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Health Education / methods
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies / methods
  • Marketing of Health Services
  • Mothers / education
  • Obesity / prevention & control*
  • Ohio
  • Patient Dropouts
  • Patient Selection*
  • Poverty
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Research Personnel / education
  • Research Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Research Personnel / psychology
  • Researcher-Subject Relations
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult