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RF24 Engaging underrepresented women as participants in studies about health risks: life stage differences in motivations to participate
  1. SJ Howcutt1,
  2. S Barbosa-Boucas2,
  3. AL Barnett3,
  4. LA Smith1
  1. 1Department of Midwifery, Community and Public Health, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Department of Life Sciences, Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK
  3. 3Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK


Background Universal interventions to reduce health risks can widen health inequalities. Targeted approaches, where an intervention is tailored to specific groups, may overcome this limitation. Women aged 16 to 34 years with lower socioeconomic status are hard-to engage in research which limits our ability to understand how to address their health and lifestyle behaviours.

According to marketing research on spending, young adults aged 16 to 34 years pass through three main life stages: (1) dependency on older adults and individual interests, (2) leaving home and spending time with peers, (3) setting up home and having a family. The aim of this study was to evaluate how useful these life stage categories are for understanding women’s motivations to participate in health research and for planning recruitment strategies.

Methods Nine focus groups with a total of 49 women (aged 16 to 34 years, without university education) were conducted. Women were recruited from different settings to mirror each of the three life stages above. Women in Further Education colleges represented category (1), women at work were for category (2) and mothers were for category (3). The focus groups explored participants’ lifestyles, reasons for participating in the current study and beliefs about how research could be of value to them. Framework analysis was used to integrate theories from existing literature with themes emerging from the focus groups.

Results All women sought personal benefits from participation but these varied by life stage. Mothers wanted social opportunities away from caring responsibilities, while women at work and women in education valued monetary incentives more highly. A common theme across the groups was the desire to escape boring activities. Women’s motivations to participate in health research were not purely altruistic but to improve their own social capital. There were differences in how women would choose to spend free time.

Conclusion The life stages were useful for understanding women’s motivations to participate in health research. Advertising strategies to engage women aged 16 to 34 years in health research should be tailored to fit their life stages, their goals for free time and the value they place on participation. These findings suggest that different strategies are required to optimise recruitment across this age range. One recruitment strategy does not fit all.

  • Health inequality
  • Research recruitment
  • Focus groups

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