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Recruiting a Diverse Group of Middle School Girls Into the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls


  • This research was funded by grants from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Grant numbers: U01HL066858, U01HL066857, U01HL066845, U01HL066856, U01HL066855, U01HL066853, and U01HL066852. The authors acknowledge Jennifer Reeves for her contributions to the manuscript. The authors also thank the study staff, including project coordinators and measurement staff, the schools, parents, and sixth- and eighth-grade girls at the participating middle schools.

John P. Elder, Professor, (, Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, 9245 Sky Park Court, Suite 221, San Diego, CA 92123.


Background:  School-based study recruitment efforts are both time consuming and challenging. This paper highlights the recruitment strategies employed by the national, multisite Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG), a study designed to measure the effectiveness of an intervention to reduce the decline of physical activity levels among middle school–aged girls. TAAG provided a unique opportunity to recruit large cohorts of randomly sampled girls within 36 diverse middle schools across the United States.

Methods:  Key elements of the formative planning, coordination, and design of TAAG’s recruitment efforts included flexibility, tailoring, and the use of incentives. Various barriers, including a natural disaster, political tension, and district regulations, were encountered throughout the recruitment process, but coordinated strategies and frequent communication between the 6 TAAG sites were helpful in tailoring the recruitment process at the 36 intervention and control schools.

Results:  Progressively refined recruitment strategies and specific attention to the target audience of middle school girls resulted in overall study recruitment rates of 80%, 85%, and 89%, for the baseline, posttest, and follow-up period, respectively.

Discussion:  The steady increase in recruitment rates over time is attributed to an emphasis on successful strategies and a willingness to modify less successful methods. Open and consistent communication, an increasingly coordinated recruitment strategy, interactive recruitment presentations, and participant incentives resulted in an effective recruitment campaign.