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Best practices for recruitment of adolescents for biobanking and precision health research: a retrospective analysis comparing juvenile idiopathic arthritis cases with healthy controls



Precision health in adolescents relies on the successful collection of data and biospecimens from an adequately sized sample of cases and comparison group(s), often healthy controls, to answer the research question. This research report describes the recruitment strategy, enrollment rates, and approach utilized in a successful biobehavioral research study. The study was designed to examine key health indicators in adolescents (13-17 years of age) with juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) compared to a control group of healthy adolescents. The purpose of this analysis is to establish best practices and identify strategies to overcome barriers to recruitment of older adolescents, an age group that tends to be underrepresented in research studies.


A retrospective secondary analysis of data from a parent study about JIA with high consent rates was employed to explore factors affecting enrollment into the biobehavioral study.


Of the 113 subjects who were recruited to the study, 74 met the eligibility criteria and reviewed the consent form. The consented group (n=40) represents 54% of those who were eligible upon initial screening. The rate of project enrollment was 2.7 participants per month. The pediatric rheumatologists referred 85% of the JIA group, and the study's principal investigator, a nurse scientist, referred 95% of the control group. Typical recruitment strategies, such as posting on social media, distributing flyers, and cold-calling potential participants from the clinic schedule were ineffective for both cases and controls. Barriers to enrollment included scheduling and fear of venipuncture. There were no demographic characteristics that significantly explained enrollment, differentiating between those who agreed to participate compared to those who refused. Successful strategies for enrollment of adolescents into this biobehavioral research study included scheduling study visits on weekends and school holidays; an informed consent and assent process that addressed adolescent fears of venipuncture; including a JIA patient on the study team; and utilizing existing relationships to maximize enrollment efforts.


Effective recruitment and enrollment practices were relationship-specific and patient-centered. Researchers should utilize best practices to ensure that precision health for adolescents is advanced.

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