Researchers’ perspectives on pediatric obesity research participant recruitment


Background: Childhood obesity prevalence has tripled over the last three decades. Pediatric obesity has important implications for both adult health as well as the United States economy. In order to combat pediatric obesity, exploratory studies are necessary to create effective interventions. Recruitment is an essential part of any study, and it has been challenging for all studies, especially pediatric obesity studies. The objective of this study was to understand barriers to pediatric obesity study recruitment and review facilitators to overcome recruitment difficulties. Methods: Twenty four childhood obesity researchers were contacted. Complete data for 11 researchers were obtained. Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using content analysis. Grounded Theory methodological approach was used, as this was an exploratory study. Investigators YP and MM coded the interviews using 28 codes. Results: Barriers to recruitment included: family and study logistics, family economics, lack of provider interest, invasive protocols, stigma, time restraints of clinicians, lack of patient motivation/interest, groupthink of students in a classroom, and participants who do not accept his or her own weight status. Facilitators to enhance recruitment practices included accommodating participants outside of regular clinic hours, incentivizing participants, cultivating relationships with communities, schools and clinics prior to study recruitment, emphasizing benefits of a study for the patient, and shifting language to focus on health rather than obesity. Conclusions: Pediatric obesity researchers face many standard and some unique challenges to recruitment, reflecting challenges common to clinical research as well as some specific to pediatrics and some specific to obesity research. Both pediatric studies as well as obesity studies are an added challenge to the already-difficult task of general study recruitment. Our findings can be used to make researchers more aware of potential difficulties, approaches and on-going needs for enhancing recruitment and enrollment practices, and in turn if applied, may result in increased study efficiency.

Last modified
  • 01/20/2017
  • DOI 10.1186/s40169-016-0099-0
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  • International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity