Engagement, Recruitment, and Retention in a Trans-Community, Randomized Controlled Trial for the Prevention of Obesity in Rural American Indian and Hispanic Children.
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Engagement, recruitment and retention of participants are critical to the success of research studies but specific strategies are rarely elucidated in the literature. The purpose of this paper is to describe the engagement, recruitment and retention process and outcomes in the Child Health Initiative for Lifelong Eating and Exercise (CHILE) study, and to describe lessons learned in the process. CHILE is a multi-level, group randomized controlled trial of a childhood obesity prevention intervention in rural American Indian and predominantly Hispanic Head Start (HS) centers in New Mexico. Barriers to engagement, recruitment and retention included distrust of researchers, long travel distances, and different HS and community structures. CHILE employed multiple strategies from the onset including the use of formative assessment, building on previous relationships, developing Memoranda of Agreement, using a community engagement specialist, and gaining support of a community champion. As a result of lessons learned, additional strategies were employed, including more frequent feedback to intervention sites, revised permission forms, telephone reminders, increased site visits and over-scheduling of interviews. These strategies resulted in the recruitment of 16 HS centers, 1,879 children, 655 parents, 7 grocery stores and 14 healthcare providers, meeting or exceeding recruitment goals. By combining principles of community engagement, a variety of recruitment strategies, and lessons learned, this study obtained a high level of recruitment and retention.