Lessons learned from principal investigators on recruitment for community-based health behaviour studies during the COVID-19 pandemic


  • Rebecca A. Seguin-Fowler Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
  • Margaret Demment Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Dallas, TX, USA
  • Sara C. Folta Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University, Boston, MA, USA
  • Meredith L. Graham Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Dallas, TX, USA
  • Jay E. Maddock Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA
  • Megan S. Patterson Department of Health Behavior, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA




Randomized trials, Community-based, Lessons, COVID-19, Physical activity, Nutrition, Recruitment


Little is known about pandemic-related impacts on participant recruitment into community-based health studies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this report was to summarize lessons learned from principal investigators (PIs) of NIH-funded community-based health behavior studies that were scheduled to recruit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We report on findings from three open-ended questions that were part of a 50-question online survey conducted from December 2022 – January 2023, completed by 52 PIs. Four categories of lessons emerged to optimize recruitment into studies: formalize relationships with community partnerships; focus on study operations; recruitment is a science and an art; and reduce participant burden and increase participant benefit. Taken together, these recommendations will require longer and more complex recruitment plans. To implement these plans, researchers and funders will need to allocate more time, thoughtful attention, and financial resources to support formal community partnerships, additional staff time and training, real-time monitoring and refinement of multiple strategies throughout recruitment, and increased attention to participant benefit.


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Short Communication