Georgia CTSA Recruitment Center Helps Research Team Attain Goals for COVID-19 Pandemic Impact Survey

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A recent study led by Dr. Megan McCool-Myers, PhD, MPH, Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics, Emory University School of Medicine, surveyed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Georgia women’s access to reproductive health services and their reproductive health behaviors. In order to increase the representativeness of the sample, Dr. McCool-Myers and her research team in Emory’s Family Planning Division turned to the Georgia CTSA Recruitment Center for assistance. With its ability to use social media to recruit study participants, the Recruitment Center created targeted Facebook ads that attracted Georgia women from under-represented populations. Ultimately, 446 women participated in the online survey, exceeding the target of 400.

Midway through the 3-month study, the research team identified an oversampling of certain populations (urban, highly educated, and young) and a reduction in survey responses. Georgia CTSA’s Recruitment Center created four Facebook ads to test which ad would best attract the desired demographic. This ad was then featured in a campaign that bolstered response rates and attracted more than 200 participants from the targeted demographic groups. Since the Georgia CTSA Recruitment Center does not charge for its recruitment consulting services, the research team only paid for the ad placements.

Dr. McCool-Myers describes her experience, “We talked with the Georgia CTSA Recruitment Center team about our missing demographics. Together with the Center’s Senior Research Coordinator Mugisha Niyibizi, we devised a strategy using keywords or search terms that would help us identify the population we were looking for through targeted Facebook ads. Having access to this service really streamlined the project and helped us complete it faster and more easily than if we had tried to launch our own ads.”

Preliminary analyses of the survey data reveal that 1 in 8 Georgia women have found it more difficult to access the birth control that they prefer. However, the pandemic’s impact on Georgia women reached beyond access to reproductive health services. Over a third of participants experienced a reduction of household income since the start of the pandemic. A quarter of those surveyed said that they have been unable to get enough food or unable to get healthy food. The participants expressed an increase in verbal fights with partners and children in their homes, accompanied with heightened anxiety and depressive feelings. Every fifth person who participated in the survey had lost a close friend or family member to COVID-19.

The findings from this study illuminate important research gaps and opportunities to transform care as women in Georgia transition into a post-COVID-19 era. Dr. McCool-Myers gives full credit for the study’s success to the multidisciplinary research team in Emory’s Family Planning Division: Peggy Goedken, MPH, Sarah Cordes, MPH, Debra Kozlowski, MPH, Valerie Jean, and Heather Gold, MD. The study received departmental support and research funding from the Executive Research Committee of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine.

The Georgia CTSA is a statewide partnership between Emory, MSM, Georgia Tech, and UGA and is one of over 60 in a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) and the National Institutes of Health's Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.