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Velott, D.L., S.A. Baker, Marianne M. Hillemeier, and C.S. Weisman. 2008. "Participant recruitment to a randomized trial of a community-based behavioral intervention for pre- and interconceptional women - Findings from the central Pennsylvania women's health study." Women's Health Issues, 18(3): 217-224.
Background. Community-based health studies rely on the ability of researchers to successfully recruit and retain participants from target populations, rather than from clinical settings. Many prior women's health studies have recruited in urban and suburban areas, but rural populations pose specific challenges. We describe the recruitment strategies employed in the Central Pennsylvania Women's Health Study to recruit 692 women in 15 low-income rural communities to a randomized trial of a behavioral intervention for pre- and interconceptional women. Methods. The organization of the project is described. Qualitative (e.g., focus groups of local project facilitators) and quantitative methods (e.g., surveys of participants) were used to assess the effectiveness of various recruitment techniques and the characteristics of the final enrolled sample. Results. A triangular recruitment approach was used in 15 communities, which included partnering with local community organizations and use of both active and passive recruitment techniques. The most effective recruitment methods were (1) actively recruiting women in social service and childcare settings, (2) use of a toll-free project telephone number printed on all passive recruitment material, and (3) the combination of passive and active recruitment in educational settings. Together, these methods successfully achieved the recruitment goals: enrolling participants who were more likely to be rural, poor or near poor, non-white, and to have less access to health care than their counterparts residing in the target communities. Conclusions. Successful recruitment of typically hard-to-reach women, such as low-income rural women, is possible through implementation of a triangular recruitment approach in local communities.