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Recruitment of veterans from primary care into a physical activity randomized controlled trial: the experience of the VA-STRIDE study

Marquis S Hawkins1*, Linda J Hough2, Marie A Berger2, Maria K Mor23, Ann R Steenkiste2, Shasha Gao2, Roslyn A Stone23, Kelly H Burkitt2, Bess H Marcus4, Joseph T Ciccolo5, Andrea M Kriska6, Deborah T Klinvex7 and Mary A Sevick8

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Biostatistics & Epidemiology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Amherst, MA 01003, USA

2 VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Pittsburgh, PA 15206, USA

3 Department of Biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA

4 Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

5 Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY 10027, USA

6 Department of Epidemiology, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA

7 University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA

8 Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA

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Trials 2014, 15:11  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-11

Published: 7 January 2014



Much of the existing literature on physical activity (PA) interventions involves physically inactive individuals recruited from community settings rather than clinical practice settings. Recruitment of patients into interventions in clinical practice settings is difficult due to limited time available in the clinic, identification of appropriate personnel to efficiently conduct the process, and time-consuming methods of recruitment. The purpose of this report is to describe the approach used to identify and recruit veterans from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Pittsburgh Healthcare System Primary Care Clinic into a randomized controlled PA study.


A sampling frame of veterans was developed using the VA electronic medical record. During regularly scheduled clinic appointments, primary care providers (PCPs) screened identified patients for safety to engage in moderate-intensity PA and willingness to discuss the study with research staff members. Research staff determined eligibility with a subsequent telephone screening call and scheduled a research study appointment, at which time signed informed consent and baseline measurements were obtained.


Of the 3,482 veterans in the sampling frame who were scheduled for a primary care appointment during the study period, 1,990 (57.2%) were seen in the clinic and screened by the PCP; moderate-intensity PA was deemed safe for 1,293 (37.1%), 871 (25.0%) agreed to be contacted for further screening, 334 (9.6%) were eligible for the study, and 232 (6.7%) enrolled.


Using a semiautomated screening approach that combined an electronically-derived sampling frame with paper and pencil prescreening by PCPs and research staff, VA-STRIDE was able to recruit 1 in 15 veterans in the sampling frame. Using this approach, a high proportion of potentially eligible veterans were screened by their PCPs.

Trial registration

Clinical identifier: NCT00731094.

Veterans; Primary care; Physical activity; Overweight; Randomized controlled trial