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2018 Alzheimer's Association Research Grant (AARG)

Scalable Strategies To Recruit African Americans Into Dementia Research

Can partnerships with specific community-based organizations help increase recruitment of African Americans in dementia research?

Elena Portacolone
University of California
San Francisco, CA - United States


Prior research in populations suggest that older blacks/African Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older whites. However, blacks/African Americans are underrepresented in dementia research, calling for an urgent need to develop effective recruitment strategies. One way to boost recruitment could be via community-based organizations (CBOs) that have a national reach and could serve as a platform to efficiently implement scalable recruitment strategies. Dr. Elena Portacolone plans to explore if partnering with a specific CBO could be leveraged as a strategy to increase recruitment of blacks/African Americans in dementia research.

Research Plan

Dr. Portacolone and her team plan to use qualitative methods to examine barriers, facilitators, and cultural factors for partnering with CBOs. The researchers will interview a total of 172 blacks/African Americans with and without cognitive impairment, caregivers and administrators of selected CBOs with national reach.
The study will be conducted in two sites – Oakland, California and Detroit, Michigan; these sites were selected due to the high representation of blacks/ African Americans and to build off existing partnerships that Dr. Portacolone and her team have with these communities. The researchers will conduct interviews of the participants at a couple of different times to first collect data and validate their findings. Dr. Portacolone’s study has three specific goals- 1) to identify barriers and facilitators to recruit blacks/African Americans with cognitive impairment into research using CBOs with national reach; 2) examine factors related to trust and cultural relevance of these organizations to facilitate recruitment; and 3) examine what could be potential barriers or facilitators to develop partnerships with the CBOs with national reach that could enhance recruitment.


The unique approach of leveraging partnerships with CBOs with a national reach will help the scientific community in scaling up the recruitment strategy from an institutional level (e.g. patient registries) to that of a broad community level. This project could provide preliminary data to guide the design of a larger study to inform national guidelines for strategies to recruit black/African Americans with cognitive impairment into research. Furthermore, the study results could be used as a model to identify strategies and guidelines to recruit other ethnic/racial minorities with cognitive impairment and other underrepresented groups into dementia research.

This project was made possible by the Dale Schenk Alzheimer's Association Research Roundtable Award.

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