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Research Recruitment Strategies for Women in the Reproductive Period

Jennifer Matthews; Maja Pedersen; and Jennifer Huberty, PhD, Women's Health SIG co-chair

Mothers and children

The Women's Health Special Interest Group had a panel discussion at the Society for Behavioral Medicine (SBM) 2015 Annual Meeting. Experts in the field of women's health shared experiences and ideas on recruiting women in the reproductive period into research studies (Panel discussants: Jennifer Huberty, PhD, Arizona State University; Jenn Leiferman, PhD, University of Colorado Denver; and Danielle Downs, PhD, The Pennsylvania State University). Here are a few highlights from the discussion, focused on relationship building and communication.

Building Partnerships

Creating positive relationships across a community can open doors and spark connections that result in meaningful partnerships for recruitment. Being willing to introduce yourself to others, ask new acquaintances out to coffee or lunch, or have the courage to "cold-call" key individuals may be an important step to gain access to specific populations.

Organizations/locations for potential partnerships:

  • Mother-baby forums (search for local forums in your geographic area)
  • Community centers, such as health and fitness or social centers
  • Health clinics offering reproductive health care
  • Retail stores catering to mothers, babies, and children
Communicating Positive Impact

Before initiating a potential partnership or collaboration, reflect on how the research can positively impact the individuals/organizations with whom you might partner. This can also include incentives provided to participants. Throughout your communication with a potential partner, be sure to emphasize this prospective impact.

Questions to reflect on before communicating with a potential partner/collaborator:

  • How might you address the needs of the potential partner/collaborator through your research?
  • What aspects of the research process or outcomes might directly benefit the members, patients, or employees of this organization?
  • How might the organization as a whole benefit from this partnership?
Leveraging Linkages

Create a link rooted in common interests between private entities (such as health care providers or small business owners), public organizations (such as public non-profit organizations or the local health department), and community members (such as representatives from local coalitions or members of the target population). Creating a panel of community leaders as an advisory group for your research can help to develop a well-received recruitment plan, and can spread the word about your research.

Finding community panel members:

  • Look and listen for names of individuals who are mentioned frequently in the targeted community; you are looking for someone who is well connected and respected
  • Look for health care providers who will "champion" your research-it is worth the time to find a provider who is interested and engaged in your cause
  • Include gatekeepers, particularly passionate peer-leader figures

Once you have found the linkages, leverage panel members' connections to helpful coalitions or volunteer groups that might be willing to contribute time or man/woman-power to your research, perhaps by spreading recruitment materials or sharing a blurb about your research at a social event.

Another resource can be women from your previous studies; asking questions about how to recruit their peers and engaging them in recruitment via word of mouth can be powerful tools.