Strategies for maximizing consent rates for child dental health surveys: a randomised controlled trial
1 School of Dentistry, The University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
2 Cumbria & Lancashire Centre Public Health England, Preston, UK
3 Cheshire & Merseyside Centre, Public Health England, Chester, UK
BMC Medical Research Methodology 2013, 13:108 doi:10.1186/1471-2288-13-108Published: 4 September 2013
Poor response rates can jeopardise the validity of the findings of epidemiological surveys. The aim of this study was to undertake a randomised controlled trial to determine the effectiveness of different strategies for maximizing parental consent rates for dental health surveys of young children.
The trial took place within the 2007/2008 NHS Epidemiological Dental Health Survey of 5-year-old children in the North West of England. Schools were randomised to one of five interventions: multiple letters to parents; promoting the research by providing additional information to parents and children; a financial incentive to the school; a financial incentive to the school administrator plus direct mailing to parents; and a control intervention comprising of usual practice, that is a single letter home to parents via the children.
A total of 335 schools (11,088 children) were recruited. The mean percentage consent rates ranged from 47% (financial incentive to school administrator plus direct mailing) to 63% (multiple letters). Pair-wise comparisons indicated that the multiple letter group had a statistically significantly greater consent rate than the financial incentive to the school administrator plus direct mailing group and promoting the research by providing additional information group, but was not statistically significantly different from the financial incentive to the school group and the control group.
There was little evidence to show that any of the five interventions made a significant difference to consent rates when compared to the control group. Financial incentives to schools were less effective than multiple reminder letters to parents. Trials should be built into surveys to test different interventions, in different contexts to expand the evidence base for improving consent rates in health surveillance programmes.