Online Program

Predictors of phone call attempts needed to complete follow-up assessments in longitudinal mental health research

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jenna Sandler, MPH, Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center/ Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Emily Feinberg, ScD, CPNP, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Christine Silva, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Clarissa André, BA, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
Ning Chen, MS, Data Coordinating Center, Boston University, Boston, MA
Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH, Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA
Background: In longitudinal research paradigms, selective attrition threatens the validity of research findings. Previous research has found that certain socio-demographic variables predict participant retention. However, there has been little published on the number of contacts it takes to reach participants in mental health research and whether this can be predicted by specific baseline characteristics.

Methods: We analyzed longitudinal data from 170 mothers who were enrolled in an RCT studying the effectiveness of a problem-solving intervention to improve maternal well-being. The sample was largely low-income (74% receiving WIC or public insurance) and non-white (56%). Depressive symptoms were assessed every 6 weeks for 9 months. Regression analysis was used to determine whether there was an association between baseline characteristics and the number of phone calls required to complete follow-ups.

Results: Low-income mothers required more phone calls to complete assessments, as compared to higher-income mothers (β=1.36, p-value 0.03). The study completion rate was 81% among low-income mothers; 97% among higher-income mothers. The average frequency of phone calls to complete a follow-up was 3.65 (sd=3.4) and the upper quartile was 4.33 calls. The subsample of low-income mothers in the upper quartile was largely non-white, unmarried, not working, and had a history of depression.

Conclusion: In this sample, mothers who were lower income tended to be more difficult to reach. Given that 25% of our sample required more than 4 phone calls per completed assessment, these data highlight the importance of research planning and allocation of resources to ensure the validity of study results.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify baseline characteristics that predict number of calls needed to reach participants for follow-up in mental health studies. Explain the importance of research planning to ensure sufficient resources to follow all participants and maintain high completion rates.

Keyword(s): Research, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a research coordinator working on several RCT's around maternal depression prevention. My role is to manage the outcome assessment team for our research group. I also have my MPH in Epidemiology and Social & Behavioral Sciences. My scientific interests include mental health of parents who have children with special health care needs and research methods specifically around retention in longitudinal research.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.