BMC medical research methodology 2018 01 0518(1) 3 doi 10.1186/s12874-017-0467-5
Improving participation rates in epidemiologic studies using questionnaires and biological sampling is important for the generalizability of the outcome. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of pre-notification, invitation length, questionnaire length, and reminder on participation rate and to investigate whether some factors contributed to participants doing both the questionnaire and blood sampling as oppose to only one part.
Our study was embedded within the pilot testing of a large population-based study about prostate cancer screening. Our study sample consisted of 28.134 men between 50 and 69 years of age and living in the region of Stockholm (Sweden) invited to respond to a web-based questionnaire and to provide blood for prostate cancer testing. The men were randomly allocated according to birth of date to receive either: (a) a pre-notification postcard or not; (b) a shorter or a longer invitation letter; (c) a shorter or a longer web-based questionnaire, and (d) a reminder or not. The effects of the survey design factors were tested using chi-square.
The use of a pre-notification (p < 0.0001), a longer questionnaire (p = 0.004) and the use of a reminder (p = 0.02) were associated with an increase in overall participation, i.e. responding to the questionnaire or providing blood for PCT or performing both components. CONCLUSIONS
The results of this pilot study justified the use of a pre-notification and a reminder in the following large population based study since the benefits of increased participation traded off against the greater costs incurred. Furthermore, we were able to use the longer version of the questionnaire, which allowed us to collect more information without risking a lower response rate.