Open Access Open Badges Research article

Non-participation in population-based disease prevention programs in general practice

Berber Koopmans*, Mark MJ Nielen, François G Schellevis and Joke C Korevaar

Author Affiliations

Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:856  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-856

Published: 9 October 2012



The number of people with a chronic disease will strongly increase in the next decades. Therefore, prevention of disease becomes increasingly important. The aim of this systematic review was to identify factors that negatively influence participation in population-based disease prevention programs in General Practice and to establish whether the program type is related to non-participation levels.


We conducted a systematic review in Pubmed, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsycINFO, covering 2000 through July 6th 2012, to identify publications including information about characteristics of non-participants or reasons for non-participation in population-based disease prevention programs in General Practice.


A total of 24 original studies met our criteria, seven of which focused on vaccination, eleven on screening aimed at early detection of disease, and six on screening aimed at identifying high risk of a disease, targeting a variety of diseases and conditions. Lack of personal relevance of the program, younger age, higher social deprivation and former non-participation were related to actual non-participation. No differences were found in non-participation levels or factors related to non-participation between the three program types. The large variation in non-participation levels within the program types may be partly due to differences in recruitment strategies, with more active, personalized strategies resulting in higher participation levels compared to an invitation letter.


There is still much to be gained by tailoring strategies to improve participation in those who are less likely to do so, namely younger individuals, those living in a deprived area and former non-participants. Participation may increase by applying more active recruitment strategies.

General practice; Prevention; Vaccination; Screening; Non-participation