The Healthy Brains and Behavior Study: Methodology and Challenges in Community-Based Follow-Up Studies of Young Adults
Follow-up studies are valuable participant-based research designs that provide longitudinal data, especially regarding community health. However, re-recruitment and retention for follow-up studies is a major barrier to successful follow-up studies. The 2011 Healthy Brains and Behavior Study assessed multidimensional biosocial risk factors and environmental influences on behavioral outcomes in 450 West Philadelphia 11-13 year-olds. In 2018, a pilot follow-up was conducted in order to assess the feasibility of a more extensive follow-up study that would specifically examine relationships of early lead exposure, childhood social adversity, and later health outcomes. This pilot study collected baseline health data for participants from the original cohort, now age 18-20. This research presentation explores the methodology for this pilot follow-up study and the challenges it faced in the tracking of participants and re-recruitment process. Additionally, it discusses associated literature in the field regarding challenges to community-based studies, especially those that include follow-ups and longitudinal data and focus on young adult and/or lower-income and minority participants. On a larger scale, it explores the barriers to recruitment and retention in participant-based research and the role of technology and communication changes in designing and implementing community-based studies.
Community-based studies are challenging, especially when they focus on a lower-income population. Lower-income and minority communities generally lack trust of health and research institutions; thus, there is sparse data for more vulnerable communities within the field of community health. Although research practices have been tailored to cater to a variety of populations, the dynamic nature of communication standards and technology can make it challenging to stay in contact with participants, especially in longitudinal and follow-up studies. Furthermore, the young adult age group is newly-independent and highly-mobile, making them difficult to track and retain for longitudinal studies that span from childhood to adulthood. All of these were important factors in the success of the recruitment for the pilot follow-up to the Healthy Brains and Behavior Study. Future studies must consider creative and innovative recruitment and retention strategies in order to obtain robust and extensive data from the sample.
Several papers have been published based on the data from the original Healthy Brains and Behavior Study. A paper discussing the methodology and challenges of the follow-up is forthcoming. For more information about this research and other associated studies, contact Jianghong Liu in the Family and Community Health Department of the School of Nursing.