Remote consent approaches for mobile phone surveys of non-communicable disease risk factors in Colombia and Uganda: A randomized study

Remote consent approaches for mobile phone surveys of non-communicable disease risk factors in Colombia and Uganda: A randomized study
Research Article
Joseph Ali, Madhuram Nagarajan, Erisa S. Mwaka, Elizeus Rutebemberwa, Andres I. Vecino-Ortiz, Angelica Tórres Quintero, Mariana Rodriguez-Patarroyo, Vidhi Maniar, Gulam Muhammed Al Kibria, Alain B. Labrique, George W. Pariyo, Dustin G. Gibson
PLOS ONE, 21 December 2022
Open Access
Abstract
Introduction
Automated mobile phone surveys (MPS) can be used to collect public health data of various types to inform health policy and programs globally. One challenge in administering MPS is identification of an appropriate and effective participant consent process. This study investigated the impact of different survey consent approaches on participant disposition (response characteristics and understanding of the purpose of the survey) within the context of an MPS that measured noncommunicable disease (NCD) risk factors across Colombia and Uganda.
Methods
Participants were randomized to one of five consent approaches, with consent modules varying by the consent disclosure and mode of authorization. The control arm consisted of a standard consent disclosure and a combined opt-in/opt-out mode of authorization. The other four arms consist of a modified consent disclosure and one of four different forms of authorization (i.e., opt-in, opt-out, combined opt-in/opt-out, or implied). Data related to respondent disposition and respondent understanding of the survey purpose were analyzed.
Results
Among 1889 completed surveys in Colombia, differences in contact, response, refusal, and cooperation rates by study arms were found. About 68% of respondents correctly identified the survey purpose, with no significant difference by study arm. Participants reporting higher levels of education and urban residency were more likely to identify the purpose correctly. Participants were also more likely to accurately identify the survey purpose after completing several survey modules, compared to immediately following the consent disclosure (78.8% vs 54.2% correct, p<0.001). In Uganda, 1890 completed surveys were collected. Though there were differences in contact, refusal, and cooperation rates by study arm, response rates were similar across arms. About 37% of respondents identified the survey purpose correctly, with no difference by arm. Those with higher levels of education and who completed the survey in English were able to more accurately identify the survey purpose. Again, participants were more likely to accurately identify the purpose of the survey after completing several NCD modules, compared to immediately following the consent module (42.0% vs 32.2% correct, p = 0.013).
Conclusion
This study contributes to the limited available evidence regarding consent procedures for automated MPS. Future studies should develop and trial additional interventions to enhance consent for automated public health surveys, and measure other dimensions of participant engagement and understanding.

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