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NIA: Making Community Connections is Key For Recruitment

Re-posted from National Institute on Aging Research & Funding Blog, Posted on June 24, 2015 by Nina Silverberg, Assistant Director, Alzheimer’s Disease Centers Program, Division of Neuroscience

f you’re struggling to recruit enough participants for your study, you are not alone. When time, staff, and other recruitment resources are limited, this can be a tough problem. How can you get a diverse group of study participants through your doors?

The keys to success are no secret, but do require concerted, sustained effort and commitment: reaching out to community gatekeepers; building relationships and trust by being in the community before asking for something from the community; and having people on your team who reflect the people you are trying to reach. (Read more about translating recruitment principles into strategies.)

One answer is likely right in your own backyard: connecting with local organizations who are already working with older adults in racially and economically diverse communities. Volunteers may spread information about your study on your behalf. Get involved and explain what you are doing and why. Then ask for their help. You can help provide evidence-based information about aging and health to communities that may not otherwise have access to it. Have you tried the Area Agencies on Aging, senior centers, the local AARP, Alzheimer’s Association, or Alzheimer’s Foundation of America chapter, senior housing sites, public health clinics, and other organizations in your area? Those organizations are often looking for ways to deliver healthy aging information and programming to their clients.

Tools you can use

Check out our Recruiting Older Adults into Research (ROAR) Toolkit! In my last blog post, I introduced you to ROAR, and now want to show you the initial results of our efforts. One message we heard loud and clear as we piloted these materials was that local connections really matter.

Collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Administration for Community Living (ACL), NIA created the ROAR Toolkit of free, customizable materials. The toolkit is intended to encourage older adults and their family caregivers, especially those in underserved and diverse communities, to participate in research. Most of the materials will soon be available in Spanish and Chinese.

What you’ll find in the ROAR toolkit:

Overview and User Guide. The User Guide offers helpful guidance about how to connect with organizations in your community, some basic how-to’s, and other resources, such as FAQs and sample social media messages.

Presentation: Healthy Aging and Participating in Research. The easy-to-adapt PowerPoint presentation includes speaker notes to make it easy to plan and deliver informative presentations. Short and long versions of the presentation cover the following topics:

  • Why research is important to healthy aging
  • What volunteers need to know about research studies
  • How older adults can make a difference for themselves and future generations by participating

Flyers: Healthy Aging & Research Participation: You can make a difference for yourself and future generations. The flyers allow for local customization of information and offer basic information about easy steps to take to find studies seeking participants.

Tip Sheet: Clinical Trials and Older People. This short overview is a helpful takeaway for older adults who may want more information.

And more…

Don’t forget about the Research Centers for Minority Aging Research (RCMARs) as another resource for recruitment support—they, too, can help make connections! The RCMARs work to improve the recruitment and retention methods used to enlist minority elders in research studies. Connecting with one of these seven RCMARs could strengthen your recruitment efforts and research.

In addition to great information on a variety of health topics that you can share with the community, NIH Senior Health also has a similar, great resource about how older adults who are interested in getting involved can find local studies to participate in. NIH Clinical Research Trials and You also has information, as well as stories from real people who have participated in research.

We hope the ROAR Toolkit will act as a catalyst to bring researchers and organizations reaching older adults in communities together to talk about participating in research and how researchers can support the community.