Recruitment and retention strategies for community-based longitudinal studies in diverse urban neighborhoods

Emily B. Ferris, Katarzyna Wyka, Kelly R. Evenson, Joan M. Dorn, Lorna Thorpe, Diane Catellier, Terry T.K. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Longitudinal, natural experiments provide an ideal evaluation approach to better understand the impact of built environment interventions on community health outcomes, particularly health disparities. As there are many participant engagement challenges inherent in the design of large-scale community-based studies, adaptive and iterative participant engagement strategies are critical. This paper shares practical lessons learned from the Physical Activity and Redesigned Community Spaces (PARCS) study, which is an evaluation of the impact of a citywide park renovation initiative on physical activity, psychosocial health, and community well-being. The PARCS study, although ongoing, has developed several approaches to improve participant engagement: building trust with communities, adapting the study protocol to meet participants’ needs and to reflect their capacity for participation, operational flexibility, and developing tracking systems. These strategies may help researchers anticipate and respond to participant engagement challenges in community-based studies, particularly in low-income communities of color.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere18591
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Built environment intervention
  • Community-based
  • Health disparities
  • Natural experiment
  • Participant engagement
  • Study adaptations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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