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      Web-Based Recruiting for Health Research Using a Social Networking Site: An Exploratory Study

      , PhD 1 , 2 , , MBBS, MD, FRCPA, FAChSHM, FRANZCOG 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , , PhD 2 , , MBBS, FRANZCOG 1 , 3 , 5 , , MEpi 1 , 2 , , PhD 1 , 2 , 3 , 6 , , PhD, MBBS, FRACP , 7 , 8

      (Reviewer), (Reviewer), (Reviewer)

      Journal of Medical Internet Research

      Gunther Eysenbach

      Advertising, research subject recruitment, women’s health, Facebook

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          Recruitment of young people for health research by traditional methods has become more expensive and challenging over recent decades. The Internet presents an opportunity for innovative recruitment modalities.


          To assess the feasibility of recruiting young females using targeted advertising on the social networking site Facebook.


          We placed an advertisement on Facebook from May to September 2010, inviting 16- to 25-year-old females from Victoria, Australia, to participate in a health study. Those who clicked on the advertisement were redirected to the study website and were able to express interest by submitting their contact details online. They were contacted by a researcher who assessed eligibility and invited them to complete a health-related survey, which they could do confidentially and securely either at the study site or remotely online.


          A total of 551 females responded to the advertisement, of whom 426 agreed to participate, with 278 completing the survey (139 at the study site and 139 remotely). Respondents’ age distribution was representative of the target population, while 18- to 25-year-olds were more likely to be enrolled in the study and complete the survey than 16- to 17-year-olds (prevalence ratio = 1.37, 95% confidence interval 1.05–1.78, P = .02). The broad geographic distribution (major city, inner regional, and outer regional/remote) and socioeconomic profile of participants matched the target population. Predictors of participation were older age, higher education level, and higher body mass index. Average cost in advertising fees per compliant participant was US $20, making this highly cost effective.


          Results demonstrate the potential of using modern information and communication technologies to engage young women in health research and penetrate into nonurban communities. The success of this method has implications for future medical and population research in this and other demographics.

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          Most cited references 44

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          Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage

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            Associations of Leisure-Time Internet and Computer Use With Overweight and Obesity, Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors: Cross-Sectional Study

            Background Internet and computer use are increasingly common leisure-time sedentary behaviors, which have the potential to impact negatively on health outcomes. However, little is known about the extent to which adults’ Internet and computer use is associated with weight status and time spent in leisure-time physical activity. Objective The objective is to examine associations of leisure-time Internet and computer use with overweight and obesity, leisure-time physical activity, and other sedentary behaviors. Methods Participants (2650 adults living in Adelaide, Australia) completed a mail-back questionnaire including items on their height and weight, past seven day recall of leisure-time physical activity, Internet and computer use, and other leisure-time sedentary behaviors. Leisure-time Internet and computer use was categorized into no use, low use (less than three hours per week), or high use (three hours or more per week). Results Participants with low leisure-time Internet and computer use had the highest levels of educational attainment and employment, and engaged in less other sedentary behaviors when compared to participants with no or high Internet and computer use. Multinomial logistic regression, adjusted for gender, age, employment, education, other sedentary behaviors and physical activity, determined that participants with a high leisure-time Internet and computer use were 1.46 (95% CI = 1.10 - 1.93) times more likely to be overweight (BMI≥25 and < 30 kg/m2) and 2.52 times more likely (95% CI = 1.82 - 3.52) to be obese (BMI≥30 kg/m2), compared to those who reported no Internet and computer use in their leisure-time. Adults with high leisure-time Internet and computer use were more likely to be overweight or obese even if they were highly active in their leisure time (OR = 1.86; 95% CI = 1.21 - 2.88), as compared to participants who did not use the Internet or computer. Leisure-time physical activity levels were largely independent of Internet and computer use. Conclusion These findings suggest that, apart from nutritional and physical activity interventions, it may also be necessary to decrease time spent in sedentary behaviors, such as leisure-time Internet and computer use, in order to reduce the prevalence of overweight and obesity. Future Internet interventions to reduce weight or increase physical activity may need to differentiate between participants with different levels of Internet use in order to increase their effectiveness. Longitudinal studies are required to examine further the potential causal relationships between the development of overweight and specific sedentary behaviors such as Internet and computer use.
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              Online Advertising as a Public Health and Recruitment Tool: Comparison of Different Media Campaigns to Increase Demand for Smoking Cessation Interventions

              Background To improve the overall impact (reach × efficacy) of cessation treatments and to reduce the population prevalence of smoking, innovative strategies are needed that increase consumer demand for and use of cessation treatments. Given that 12 million people search for smoking cessation information each year, online advertising may represent a cost-efficient approach to reach and recruit online smokers to treatment. Online ads can be implemented in many forms, and surveys consistently show that consumers are receptive. Few studies have examined the potential of online advertising to recruit smokers to cessation treatments. Objective The aims of the study were to (1) demonstrate the feasibility of online advertising as a strategy to increase consumer demand for cessation treatments, (2) illustrate the tools that can be used to track and evaluate the impact of online advertising on treatment utilization, and (3) highlight some of the methodological challenges and future directions for researchers. Methods An observational design was used to examine the impact of online advertising compared to traditional recruitment approaches (billboards, television and radio ads, outdoor advertising, direct mail, and physician detailing) on several dependent variables: (1) number of individuals who enrolled in Web- or telephone-based cessation treatment, (2) the demographic, smoking, and treatment utilization characteristics of smokers recruited to treatment, and (3) the cost to enroll smokers. Several creative approaches to online ads (banner ads, paid search) were tested on national and local websites and search engines. The comparison group was comprised of individuals who registered for Web-based cessation treatment in response to traditional advertising during the same time period. Results A total of 130,214 individuals responded to advertising during the study period: 23,923 (18.4%) responded to traditional recruitment approaches and 106,291 (81.6%) to online ads. Of those who clicked on an online ad, 9655 (9.1%) registered for cessation treatment: 6.8% (n = 7268) for Web only, 1.1% (n = 1119) for phone only, and 1.2% (n = 1268) for Web and phone. Compared to traditional recruitment approaches, online ads recruited a higher percentage of males, young adults, racial/ethnic minorities, those with a high school education or less, and dependent smokers. Cost-effectiveness analyses compare favorably to traditional recruitment strategies, with costs as low as US $5-$8 per enrolled smoker. Conclusions Developing and evaluating new ways to increase consumer demand for evidence-based cessation services is critical to cost-efficiently reduce population smoking prevalence. Results suggest that online advertising is a promising approach to recruit smokers to Web- and telephone-based cessation interventions. The enrollment rate of 9.1% exceeds most studies of traditional recruitment approaches. The powerful targeting capabilities of online advertising present new opportunities to reach subgroups of smokers who may not respond to other forms of advertising. Online advertising also provides unique evaluation opportunities and challenges to determine rigorously its impact and value.

                Author and article information

                J Med Internet Res
                J. Med. Internet Res
                Journal of Medical Internet Research
                Gunther Eysenbach (JMIR Publications Inc., Toronto, Canada )
                Jan-Feb 2012
                01 February 2012
                : 14
                : 1
                1Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Royal Women’s Hospital ParkvilleAustralia
                2Infection and Immunity Theme Murdoch Childrens Research Institute ParkvilleAustralia
                3Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology University of Melbourne ParkvilleAustralia
                4Department of Microbiology Royal Children’s Hospital ParkvilleAustralia
                5Department of Gynaecology Royal Children’s Hospital ParkvilleAustralia
                6Melbourne Medical School University of Melbourne ParkvilleAustralia
                7Department of Medicine Royal Melbourne Hospital University of Melbourne ParkvilleAustralia
                8Bone and Mineral Service Royal Melbourne Hospital ParkvilleAustralia
                ©Yeshe Fenner, Suzanne M Garland, Elya E Moore, Yasmin Jayasinghe, Ashley Fletcher, Sepehr N Tabrizi, Bharathy Gunasekaran, John D Wark. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 01.02.2012.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

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                advertising, research subject recruitment, women’s health, facebook


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