The Feasibility of Using Facebook, Craigslist, and Other Online Strategies to Recruit Young African American Women for a Web-Based Healthy Lifestyle Behavior Change Intervention

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Abstract

Background:

Reports describing successful recruiting of minority participants are available; however, they focus largely on traditional strategies. Internet and mobile devices are widely used, providing alternative approaches, yet less information is available describing the success of these approaches.

Objective:

This article (1) evaluates the feasibility of using online advertising as a recruiting modality for a healthy lifestyle behavior change intervention targeting young African American women and (2) describes lessons learned to better inform researchers for future directions.

Methods:

African American women, aged 18 to 45 years, with untreated prehypertension and Internet access were eligible for a 12-week randomized study providing physical activity or nutrition behavior change education delivered via online modules. Traditional strategies included flyers, tabletop cards, blood pressure screenings, health fairs, and clinics. Online-related strategies included posting ads on Facebook, Craigslist, and on the university Web site, intranet, and “on-hold” telephone line. Descriptive statistics were used to identify frequency of recruitment strategies. χ2 Analysis was used to assess differences between enrolled and nonenrolled inquiries.

Results:

Among all 176 inquiries, the most frequented strategies were the university Web site (44%), blood pressure screenings (15%), Facebook/Craigslist (13%), and clinics (12%). Enrollment rates differed across recruitment strategies (χ2P = .046). The 3 highest enrollment rates were (1) employee in-services (100%), (2) flyers/tabletop cards (31.6%), and (3) word of mouth/physician referral (25%).

Conclusion:

Online-related strategies are convenient and have great potential for reaching large numbers of people. However, the actual rate of participants successfully enrolled online was proportionally smaller when compared with traditional recruiting strategies.

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