A Social Marketing Approach to Recruit Cancer Survivors for Research and Treatment

Narineh Hartoonian


Recruitment is fundamental to project success and the production of clinically and statistically meaningful results. However, researchers have been challenged to recruit adequate numbers of participants for supportive interventions for cancer survivors (Buss et al., 2008). The purpose of this dissertation was to use social marketing theory as a framework to better understand recruitment for a web-based psychosocial intervention for cancer survivors. The study sample included cancer survivors from the Loma Linda University cancer registry or reached via population-level recruitment efforts (e.g., web and print advertisements). Of the 384 eligible potential participants, 197 fully enrolled in the intervention. Among potential participants, greater distress was associated with younger age, being female and lower SEER score, and study enrollment was higher among individuals with greater distress. Additionally, further progression through the recruitment process (i.e., full study enrollment versus just registration) was associated with higher income, being male, non-Hispanic White ethnicity, and a high level of distress. Consistent with previous research, perceived barriers/costs of enrollment were identified among individuals who declined participation, including personal reasons and health factors. With regard to effectiveness, generalized population-level strategies (e.g., web and print advertisements) were more effective and less resource intensive overall, but did not yield a representative sample. The results of this study may serve to guide selection of appropriate strategies in recruitment and intervention design in future cancer research. This study also demonstrates the feasibility of using social marketing theory as a framework within which to evaluate existing recruitment and intervention data.