In 2000, the US Congress authorized the National Institutes of Health to conduct a prospective national longitudinal study of environmental influences on children’s health and development from birth through 21 years. Several recruitment methodologies were piloted to determine the optimal strategy for a main National Children’s Study.


After an initial pilot recruitment that used a household enumeration strategy performed poorly, the National Children’s Study Vanguard Study developed and evaluated the feasibility, acceptability, and cost of 4 alternate strategies to recruit a large prospective national probability sample of pregnant women and their newborn children. We compare household-based recruitment, provider-based recruitment, direct outreach, and provider-based sampling (PBS) strategies with respect to overall recruitment success, efficiency, cost, and fulfillment of scientific requirements.


Although all 5 strategies achieved similar enrollment rates (63%–81%) among eligible women, PBS achieved the highest recruitment success as measured by the ratio of observed-to-expected newborn enrollees per year of 0.99, exceeding those of the other strategies (range: 0.35–0.48). Because PBS could reach the enrollment target through sampling of high volume obstetric provider offices and birth hospitals, it achieved the lowest ratio of women screened to women enrolled and was also the least costly strategy. With the exception of direct outreach, all strategies enrolled a cohort of women whose demographics were similar to county natality data.


PBS demonstrated the optimal combination of recruitment success, efficiency, cost, and population representativeness and serves as a model for the assembly of future prospective probability-based birth cohorts.

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