Recruitment and retention strategies for environmental exposure studies: Lessons from the Detroit Exposure and Aerosol Research Study
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Detroit Exposure and Aerosol Research Study (DEARS) was a complex 3-year personal exposure study. The six geographically defined areas in the Detroit (Wayne County), Michigan, area used as study locations are ethnically diverse; the majority of the residents are African American or Hispanic. Each summer and winter season, the study solicited 40 adult nonsmoking study participants from these predefined areas. Participants were asked to allow home visits each morning for a week, to wear a personal exposure monitoring vest, and to complete an activity diary and follow-up questionnaire each day. Community action groups, recruitment staff, and environmental technicians coordinated the recruitment and environmental sampling activities. Although the study had an overall response rate of 19 percent, recruitment goals were met nearly every season in each geographic area. Over-recruitment was necessary to replace dropouts. Recruitment staff used face-to-face household recruitment to enroll 136 study participants. Among participants, 73 percent participated in two seasons. Details about the recruitment techniques used in exposure studies, as well as the lessons learned, rarely appear in the literature. This report delineates the lessons from the DEARS that may be beneficial to other researchers using similar study designs in low-income, ethnically diverse urban areas.