Faith, Family, and Social Networks: Effective Strategies for Recruiting Brazilian Immigrants in Maternal and Child Health Research

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Participation of racial/ethnic minority and immigrant populations in research studies is essential to understand and address health disparities. Nonetheless, these populations are often underrepresented in research because of limited participation that may be due to barriers to participation such as fear and mistrust of research, lack of or limited access to healthcare and social services, time and employment constraints, participation-associated costs (e.g., travel costs), language barriers, undocumented status, and cultural differences. Brazilians comprise a rapidly growing immigrant population group in the United States (US), and there is a need to identify and understand factors affecting the health status of Brazilian immigrants that are amenable to intervention. Therefore, this paper presents effective strategies and lessons learned from outreach and recruiting Brazilian immigrants living in the US to enroll in maternal and child health research studies. Using a data recruitment log, we collected quantitative and qualitative data on recruitment strategies that were employed to recruit pregnant women and parents into six health research studies. Direct recruitment strategies included personal contacts of research staff and recruiting partners, and on-site, in-person outreach and recruitment at faith- and community-based events (e.g., meeting participants after church services, at faith-based community events), and private and social events (e.g., household parties) conducted by bilingual, bicultural research assistants who were members of the priority population. We also used snowball sampling as a recruitment strategy by asking enrolled participants to share information about our studies and encourage their family and friends to participate. Indirect recruitment methods included posting flyers at local businesses, social service agencies, faith-based and healthcare organizations, and posting announcements on social media (Facebook). Direct recruitment methods in combination with snowball sampling were the most successful strategies for recruiting Brazilian immigrant parents, while social media was an effective indirect method for recruiting first-time pregnant women. In addition, analyses of qualitative data found that research staff’s understanding of the sociocultural context of the target population combined with the use of linguistically and culturally sensitive recruitment strategies tailored to meet the needs of Brazilian immigrants was important for overcoming barriers to participation and facilitating successful recruitment and enrollment of participants. Study findings provide information on a suite of effective strategies and lessons learned for reaching, recruiting, and enrolling Brazilian immigrants in maternal and child health research. Future studies should continue to purposefully collect information on recruitment strategies and disseminate the findings, which will be instrumental in researchers’ efforts to increase participation of ethnic minority and immigrant populations such as Brazilians in health research.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities