Strategies to Recruit a Diverse Low-Income Population to Child Weight Management Programs From Primary Care Practices
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Strategies to Recruit a Diverse Low-Income Population to Child Weight Management Programs From Primary Care Practices

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    Purpose and Objectives

    Primary care practices can be used to engage children and families in weight management programs. The Texas Childhood Obesity Research Demonstration (TX CORD) study targeted patients at 12 primary care practices in diverse and low-income areas of Houston, Texas, and Austin, Texas for recruitment to a trial of weight management programs. This article describes recruitment strategies developed to benefit both families and health care practices and the modification of electronic health records (EHRs) to reflect recruitment outcomes.

    Intervention Approach

    To facilitate family participation, materials and programs were provided in English and Spanish, and programs were conducted in convenient locations. To support health care practices, EHRs and print materials were provided to facilitate obesity recognition, screening, and study referral. We provided brief training for providers and their office staffs that covered screening patients for obesity, empathetic communication, obesity billing coding, and use of counseling materials.

    Evaluation Methods

    We collected EHR data from 2012 through 2014, including demographics, weight, and height, for all patients aged 2 to 12 years who were seen in the 12 provider practices during the study’s recruitment phase. The data of patients with a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 85th percentile were compared with the same data for patients who were referred to the study and patients who enrolled in the study. We also examined reasons that patients referred to the study declined to participate.


    Overall, 26% of 7,845 patients with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile were referred to the study, and 27% of referred patients enrolled. Enrollment among patients with a BMI at or above the 85th percentile was associated with being Hispanic and with more severe obesity than with patients of other races/ethnicities or less severe obesity, respectively. Among families of children aged 2 to 5 years who were referred, 20% enrolled, compared with 30% of families of older children (>5 y to 12 y). Referral rates varied widely among the 12 primary care practices, and referral rates were not associated with EHR modifications.

    Implications for Public Health

    Engagement and recruitment strategies for enrolling families in primary care practice in weight management programs should be strengthened. Further study of factors associated with referral and enrollment, better systems for EHR tools, and data on provider and office adherence to study protocols should be examined. EHRs can track referral and enrollment to capture outcomes of recruitment efforts.

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