Recruiting elders into research




Wong, Lillian
Vintimilla, Raul
Izurieta, Haydee
Large, Stephanie
Ruiz, Daisy
Hall, James PhD
O'Bryant, Sid PhD
Johnson, Leigh


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Hypothesis/Objective Recruiting older adults into research is a complex task and utilizing ineffective recruitment methods is a waste of research grant money and researcher time. Research in aging and Alzheimer’s disease is particularly sensitive to low levels of enrollment and study completion, as it tends to have a higher participant burden (several study visits, time-consuming appointments and transportation issues). Enrolling sufficient participants is vital for the results of the study to be significant and representative of the population. The purpose of this study was to examine the most effective methods of recruitment in a cohort of adults 50 years or older. Methods The Health and Aging Brain Study among Latino Elders (HABLE) Study is a community based, epidemiological study of cognitive aging among Mexican American and non-Hispanic White elders. The study will recruit 1,000 Mexican Americans and 1,000 Non-Hispanic Whites. The HABLE study uses a combination of community based participatory research methods and targeted marketing for recruitment. On first contact, all participants are asked, “how did you hear about us?”; this information was compared with data from our outreach and advertising tracking system which includes information on the number and type of recruitment events (such as conferences, community talks, etc.), and marketing materials (such as postcards, paid advertisements, etc). Results The total number of new potential participant contacts was 2,136. Of that, 1038 (49%) were scheduled for a study visit; of those scheduled, 856 (82%) completed the study. The majority of participants reporting hearing about the study via: word of mouth (29%), print advertisement (19%) and community outreach at senior centers and churches (16%). Only a small fraction of participants heard about the research through free social media recruitment (1%) and health fair/conference/sponsorship (7%). Conclusions Out of all our recruitment strategies, word of mouth was the most effective. Additionally, print advertising (brochures, postcards and newspaper advertisements placed in various locations in the community) and community outreach in local senior centers or churches were highly successful. The data shows that a combination of mass advertising (print) and face-to-face recruitment (being present in community outreach events) is crucial in getting adults 50 years or older to enroll in aging research.