, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 55-65

Strategies for retaining study participants in behavioral intervention trials: Retention experiences of the nih behavior change consortium

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Failing to retain an adequate number of study participants in behavioral intervention trials poses a threat to interpretation of study results and its external validity. This qualitative investigation describes the retention strategies promoted by the recruitment and retention committee of the Behavior Change Consortium, a group of 15 university-based sites funded by the National Institutes of Health to implement studies targeted toward disease prevention through behavior change. During biannual meetings, focus groups were conducted with all sites to determine barriers encountered in retaining study participants and strategies employed to address these barriers. All of the retention strategies reported were combined into 8 thematic retention categories. Those categories perceived to be most effective for retaining study participants were summarized and consistencies noted among site populations across the life course (e.g., older adults, adults, children, and adolescents). Further, possible discrepancies between site populations of varying health statuses are discussed, and an ecological framework is proposed for use in future investigations on retention.

This work was supported by sponsorship from the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development as part of the Behavior Change Consortium trans-National Institutes of Health (NIH) activities, NIH Grant R01 CA080725.
We thank the recruitment and retention workgroup members and the Committee’s sponsors, Susan Solomon and Lynn Haverkos, for their collaboration and sharing of retention information.