A significant number of people from ethnic minority backgrounds can be persuaded to take part in research studies, according to a report published in the online open access journal, BMC Public Health. This contradicts previous research that suggests that ethnic minorities are less likely to volunteer for clinical research, possibly due to famous breaches of medical ethics, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study.
Pregnant women of African American or Hispanic origin living in Washington DC, USA, were recruited into a study investigating whether counselling programmes were effective at reducing smoking, depression and intimate partner violence during pregnancy. Only a fifth of the women, who were followed until 10 weeks postpartum, failed to complete the study. The factors leading to this low drop out rate were analysed by a team led by Dr. Nabil El-Khorazaty
Providing financial compensation for the participants' time and effort partly contributed to the high retention rate. Other strategies that improved retention included the use of a data management system that tracked study events, the provision of timely tracking and monitoring reports for all study activities to maintain close communications, and efforts to gain the cooperation of the staff at clinic sites. The study participants were also frequently telephoned to keep them informed of upcoming interviews. Detailed notes were made of the best time to call and of alternative contact numbers. In addition, building a rapport by showing sensitivity to the women and their experiences, was imperative, say the authors.
The team found that the women who intentionally left the study were more likely to be older, in a relationship and working. These women may have had more stable lives and felt that the survey was less beneficial to them personally. In contrast, women who the researchers were unable to contact for follow-up interviews tended to be younger, single and had a more chaotic lifestyle. This suggests that researchers should tailor their retention strategies to best fit different target groups.
"The inclusion of ethnic minorities in clinical and behavioral research provides better access to new and high-quality health care often not available to them," says El-Khorazaty. He adds: "It is important that they are included in these trials, because the prevalence of many health problems is higher in ethnic minorities, and health outcomes are often poorer."
Recruitment and retention of low-income minority women in a behavioural intervention to reduce smoking, depression, and intimate partner violence during pregnancy
Nabil El-Khorazaty, Allan A Johnson, Michele Kiely, Ayman AE El-Mohandes, Siva Subramanian, Haziel A Laryea, Kennan B Murray, Jutta S Thornberry and Jill G Joseph
BMC Public Health (in press)
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