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Recruiting and Retaining Program Participants

Successful health promotion and disease prevention programs engage participants and maintain their participation over time. To achieve this, programs use a combination of strategies to develop a targeted implementation approach. To reach and involve participants in health promotion and disease prevention activities, consider the following strategies and approaches:

  • Identify the target population: Consider the demographics, geography, existing behaviors, or desired behaviors within the community. Segmenting the population can result in greater receptiveness and benefit for participants.
  • Spread the word: Develop recruitment materials such as flyers, newspaper articles, newsletters, radio advertisements, health fairs, presentations, and phone calls. Using more than one type of recruitment material often works well.
  • Develop culturally relevant materials: Ensure messages are easy to read and culturally appropriate for the target population. Effective messages tell a story about how program participation will provide a tangible emotional and/or physical benefit.
  • Encourage participation: Convey enthusiasm in recruitment strategies and materials. Have fun talking about the program!
  • Increase interest among the target population: Ask “program champions” to help with recruitment.
  • Engage participants: Plan a creative program structure based on the interest of the target population. Examples include cooking classes, exercise sessions, yoga classes, health screenings, and health fairs.
  • Motivate participants: Provide incentives such as discounted memberships to athletic clubs, free items that encourage healthy eating (cutting boards and salad shakers), exercise equipment, and other items or services related to the goals of the health promotion or disease prevention program.
  • Retain participants: Social support such as teams, coaching, and leadership opportunities can motivate and maintain participation.
  • Adjust the program as needed: Assess the program's effectiveness, make any necessary adjustments, and redeploy the program to ensure it continues to be relevant and meaningful for the people involved.

Resources to Learn More

Five Strategies for Successful Recruitment and Retention of Children and Families in Human Services Programs
A toolkit for increasing participation in community-based health programs. The toolkit provides strategies, resources, and guidelines.
Organization(s): RAND Corporation
Date: 2017

Points to Consider about Recruitment and Retention While Preparing a Clinical Research Study
Provides a list of considerations that can impact clinical recruitment and retention, and where applicable, strategies to address these issues.
Organization(s): National Institute of Mental Health