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Challenges in recruiting hard-to-reach populations focusing on Latin American recent immigrants

Mandana Vahabi (Faculty of Community Services–Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Sandra Isaacs (McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Mustafa Koc (Department of Sociology, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)
Cynthia Damba (Toronto District Health Council, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare

ISSN: 2056-4902

Article publication date: 16 March 2015




Recruiting immigrant populations, particularly recent arrivals, is challenging due to lack of sampling frames and other factors. The purpose of this paper is to report the feasibility of using a quasi-random sampling strategy for recruiting recent Latin American (LA) immigrants.


The initial recruitment strategy included random selection of two census tracts (CTs) with high concentrations and numbers of recent LAs in Toronto, and door-to-door recruitment. Based on challenges encountered this strategy was modified by consulting trusted community members and recruiting participants residing in selected CTs using cultural venues.


Door-to-door recruitment of the target group is difficult. Challenges included accessing individuals living in apartment buildings, lack of trust and fear of deportation, transitory residency, and difficulty recruiting very recent arrivals. The modified strategy was more efficient and yielded higher recruitment rates, and was more acceptable to participants.

Research limitations/implications

The limited timeframe of the study and lack of timely census data may have prevented full exploration of study methodologies.


The study demonstrated that recruitment rates of recent immigrants and refugees can be improved by randomly selecting CTs with high concentrations and numbers of recent immigrants and using culturally appropriate recruitment strategies. These groups may not be homogeneously distributed in selected geographic areas (e.g. CTs); it may be necessary to focus on pockets of high concentration as identified by community members who are familiar with the area.



Financial support for this study was provided in part by the Public Health Agency of Canada and an SRC grant from the Ryerson Faculty of Community Services. The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report. The authors would like to thank all the participants who found time in their busy schedules to participate in this study, and the study research assistants (Elizabeth Cristina Montoya and Marcello Paolinelli) for their help with recruitment and data collection.


Vahabi, M., Isaacs, S., Koc, M. and Damba, C. (2015), "Challenges in recruiting hard-to-reach populations focusing on Latin American recent immigrants", International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 36-44.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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