Bringing life back into a longitudinal sample: addressing issues with contact and engagement
The primary purpose of Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health is to build an evidence base to inform the National Male Health Policy and help improve the health and wellbeing of Australian men and boys. Funded by the Department of Health, Ten to Men began in 2013 with a sample of around 16,000 men aged from 10 to 55, and is currently in its third wave of data collection. Changes in the management of the study in 2018 resulted in a five-year gap between Waves 2 and 3. During this gap, there was a substantial pause in contact with the sample, leading to outdated contact information and reduced attachment to the study. This paper will discuss the work undertaken to address these challenges and the strategies implemented for locating and re-engaging participants for Wave 3 of Ten to Men.
To remedy the lack of reliable contact information, a range of options were considered for obtaining updated information from participants and tracking those who could not be contacted, including an incentivised panel maintenance activity, scoping of tracking options, and promotion of the study. The first activity conducted was a strategically incentivised panel maintenance activity, where participants were asked to review and update or confirm their contact information. While the response rate for this activity was high in comparison to similar activities conducted in previous waves or other studies, at the conclusion of this activity a substantial proportion of participants without updated contact information remained. Extensive effort was then given to identifying effective methods for tracking these participants, though privacy constraints proved challenging. Consultations were also held on innovative ways to help promote the study and bring the third wave to the attention of hard-to-reach participants.
Another challenge was the lack of recent participant engagement in the study, with some respondents having forgotten about their previous participation or assuming the study had ended. Several activities were undertaken to address this, including the re-branding of the study. The re-brand sought to balance maintaining a connection with the original form and look of the study with providing a refreshed, engaging look for the study going forward. The new study branding was applied to all participant documentation, which, with input from focus groups, was carefully designed to be visually appealing and promote the importance of ongoing participation in the study. Care also went into selecting participant incentives that would appeal to a broad range of participants and maximise response, while aligning with the values of a men’s health study.
This paper will discuss the strategies used, as well as outcomes and reflections. Early findings from the Main Wave data collection will be presented.