Well designed recruitment and retention efforts are crucial for the success of community-based studies, particularly those involving parents and children and requiring school support. At the school level, researchers have reported the importance of understanding the hierarchy of school systems and gaining support on several levels including superintendents, principals, assistant principals, school nurses, teachers, physical education teachers, custodians, and key members of parent–teacher associations (Croft, Webber, Parker, & Berenson, 1984; Harrell, Bradley, Dennis, Frauman, & Criswell, 2000; Harrington et al., 1997; Olds & Symons, 1990; Petosa & Goodman, 1991; Post, Galanti, & Gilliam, 2003). At child and parent levels, researchers have reported that it is important to employ various strategies in recruiting participants, including approaches that are flexible and reflect the cultural and socioeconomic status of intervention group members (Croft et al., 1984; Post et al., 2003). It is also important to keep the lines of communication open between the study staff, superintendents, school partners, and children and parents. The importance of the study and benefits for schools, children, and parents are reasons why superintendents, schools, parent, and children choose to support or join a study. (Elder et al., 2008; Olds & Symons, 1990; Sexton, 2005).
Retention strategies and procedures have been reported less frequently (Jones & Broome, 1997; STOPP-T2M Prevention Study Group, 2006). Several authors discussed the importance of retention in both the control and intervention groups and emphasized that time spent with each group should be identical (Jones & Broome, 1997; STOPP-T2M Prevention Study Group, 2006). In one study, participants' reported that program content, interventionists, support from the other participants, and incentives such as food and money were all reasons why they continued to participate in the study (Jones & Broome, 1997). Some authors noted loss of interest in the study, conflicts with scheduling, lack of time, competing demands for time, and transportation issues as threats to retention (Jones & Broome, 1997; STOPP-T2M Prevention Study Group, 2006).
The Family Partners for Health Study was an early evening community-based cluster randomized controlled trial conducted in partnership with eight elementary schools in two counties in North Carolina (NC). The sample consisted of African American (63%), Non-Hispanic white (32%), and bilingual Hispanic (5%), low-income second, third, and fourth grade children (n = 358) and their parents (n = 358), who were overweight or obese. The schools were in small towns or rural areas of NC. The sample consisted of predominantly minority lower socioeconomic status students with 88–94% eligible for the Free Lunch Program. Schools were randomly assigned to either the intervention or wait-list control group. A total of eight schools participated. This article describes the strategies used by the study team at both district and school levels and at child and parent levels to recruit and retain participants.