BMC Medical Research Methodology
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Background: Investigations of participant retention in longitudinal health and medical research, document strategies that work best but overlook social marketing’s capacity to influence participant retention. After applying the social marketing framework: the idea that determining what longitudinal participants ‘buy’ (product), at what cost (price), in what location (place) and through which communication channels (promotion), this paper aims to inform and enhance retention efforts. Methods: This qualitative study was conducted through in-depth interviews with participants from the Raine Study that began in Western Australia in 1989. The Generation 2 participants, initially enrolled into the Raine Study as babies by their parents (Generation 1), are now young adults invited to attend follow-up studies and tests every few years. Our study defined ‘active’ participants (n = 17) as those who agreed to attend their 27 year follow-up, and ‘inactive’ (n = 12) participants as those who had attended neither of the past two follow-ups (22 and 27 years). Results: Raine Study participants experienced core, actual and augmented product benefits. Inactive participants focused on the costs (price) associated with participation, and were more likely to suggest tele-health (place) strategies to overcome barriers to follow-up attendance. Both active and inactive participants found professional processes and friendly staff made the Raine Study environment appealing, suggested that social media (promotion) was underutilised, and offered novel ideas to enhance engagement. Conclusions: Social marketing can support the development of differentiated strategies addressing the unique needs and wants of active and inactive participants. Sophisticated cohort segmentation can reach participants in a more meaningful way, reinforce the study ‘brand’ and guard against attrition.
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