A primary goal for the Healthy Brain Network is to generate a dataset that captures the broad range of heterogeneity and impairment that exists in developmental psychopathology. Accordingly, the marketing team adopted a community-referred recruitment model using advertisements to encourage participation of families who have concerns about psychiatric symptoms in their child. The advertisements were distributed to community members, educators and local care providers, as well as directly to parents via e-mail lists and events. The advertisements highlight the potential value of participation for children who may require school-based accommodations. In particular, the Healthy Brain Network provided the comprehensive diagnostic evaluation reports, which include clinical impressions and actionable treatment recommendations; when appropriate, the reports can be used to acquire an Individualized Education Program (IEP) - a prerequisite for obtaining school accommodations and services, as well as specialized classroom placements. Up to three feedback sessions and referral information are provided to participants and their families as well, along with modest monetary compensation for their time and expenses incurred.
It is important to note that this recruitment strategy was developed to achieve the major goals of the Healthy Brain Network after considering the relative merits of the adopted strategy versus a fully representative epidemiologic design. The primary goal of the Healthy Brain Network is to generate a large-scale, transdiagnostic sample for biomarker discovery and investigations of the neural substrates associated with commonly occurring illness phenotypes. While ascertainment is not clinic-based, per se, the strategy of recruiting on the basis of perceived clinical concern dictates that the Healthy Brain Network sample will include a high proportion of individuals affected by psychiatric illness. Nonetheless, despite the lack of rigorous epidemiologic ascertainment, the intended scale of data collection and the inclusion of diverse communities across New York City may approximate representativeness in the sample. The scale of the sample should also allow investigators to study selected sub-cohorts of interest for targeted study (e.g., comparing individuals with ADHD residing in Midtown Manhattan vs. those residing in Staten Island). Finally, depending on the ability to secure financial support, the fourth phase of the Healthy Brain Network will switch strategies to make the final 1500 participants a representative epidemiologic cohort.
Because the Healthy Brain Network is a community-based research study, health and community fairs figure prominently among its recruitment strategies. The Healthy Brain Network also runs advertising campaigns, both digital and print, publishes some billboard advertising, and engages in social media campaigns. Below are samples of efforts within each of those areas.
Most of the Healthy Brain Network's print advertising efforts have taken place in the Staten Island area, where one of its flagship offices is located. The multi-platform publication Staten Island Parent is the primary venue for these efforts. The Healthy Brain Network marketing team also placed print advertisements in monthly parent magazines in other markets, and annual resource guides aimed at parent audiences. Advertisements are timed to coincide with both the school calendar and historical dips in inquiries, or the opening of a new location. In addition, the Healthy Brain Network has also posted billboard advertisements on the Staten Island Ferry. Below are advertisements included in the Staten Island Parent and New Jersey Family print publications during campaigns in 2017.
The Healthy Brain Network's primary digital marketing effort is the Healthy Brain Network recruitment website. The site has a simple design with basic information on study goals, the organization and research team, and participating in the study. The website houses two videos – one where visitors can view a message from HBN spokesperson Brandon Marshall, and a second one where they can learn how one family benefited from participation in the study. Families or individuals with questions or interest in participating in the study can submit an inquiry from any page on the site. All other outreach efforts, digital (detailed below) and otherwise, point toward the Healthy Brain Network website in some capacity.
The Healthy Brain Network also relies on partnerships to refer participating families for evaluation. These partnerships include schools, pediatricians, psychiatrists, educators and community service organizations sending families to the Healthy Brain Network.
Frequently, these partners connect with the Healthy Brain Network at health fairs and community events focused on mental health. In some cases, the Healthy Brain Network reaches out to partners directly by making drop-in visits to potential partners and leaving a partnering flyer (.docx download) along with other recruitment materials they can distribute to interested families. Some partners put flyers for the Healthy Brain Network in their lobby, while others target specific families they think could benefit from participation and approach them directly. The Healthy Brain Network also sends direct emails and makes direct phone calls to organizations who meet certain criteria. These criteria include having existing treatments or services focused on mental health, but not necessarily having capacity to provide the comprehensive evaluations offered by the Healthy Brain Network. There is also the option of running email campaigns to potential partners.
During the 2016 AACAP conference in New York City, the Child Mind Institute hosted an exhibitor booth at the conference. HBN was also represented there in an attempt to establish relationships with potential partners.
Community building is a big part of the Healthy Brain Network's outreach. Relationships with local government offices play a key role in connecting us to the community. The support of both State Senator Andrew Lanza and Staten Island Borough President James Oddo has been integral to the Healthy Brain Network's success in Staten Island. To aid the above recruitment efforts, the Healthy Brain Network also engages in the following activities as a means of developing brand awareness and community building:
For more information about specific recruitment strategies, please email Marijayne Bushey.
The Healthy Brain Network recruitment has also benefitted from media attention in a variety of forms. For example, news channel NY1 covered the Healthy Brain Network launch on Staten Island, and the Staten Island Advance wrote several stories announcing the impending launch and welcoming the arrival of the study when its flagship clinical office first opened in the borough. The same publication also ran an op-ed written by Dr. Michael Milham on the topic of youth mental health and suicide in Staten Island. WNYC Radio ran a piece (embedded below) on the Healthy Brain Network search for physical markers of mental health disorders. NYMetroParents.com headlined the Healthy Brain Network in a feature about the science behind the study and again in one of its September 2016 “New People, New Places” features. Staten Island Community Television hosted a panel discussion on mental health in the borough between Dr. Milham and the Staten Island Borough Presidents Director of Health and Wellness, Dr. Ginny Mantello, chaired by Dr. Kaur.
With few exceptions, the presence of psychiatric, medical, or neurological illness do not exclude participation. Primary causes for exclusion center on the presence of acute safety concerns (e.g., danger to self or others), cognitive or behavioral impairments that could interfere with participation (e.g., being non-verbal, IQ less than 66) or medical concerns that are expected to confound brain-related findings (see table). All individuals meeting inclusion criteria, without any reasons for exclusion, are invited to participate in the study.