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Background: Participants not returning data collection questionnaires is a problem for many randomised controlled trials. The resultant loss of data leads to a reduction in statistical power and can result in bias. The aim of this study was to assess whether the use of a study update newsletter and/or a handwritten or printed Post-it® note sticker increased postal questionnaire response rates for participants of a randomised controlled trial. Method: This study was a factorial trial embedded within a host trial of a falls-prevention intervention among men and women aged ≥65 years under podiatric care. Participants were randomised into one of six groups: newsletter plus handwritten Post-it®; newsletter plus printed Post-it®; newsletter only; handwritten Post-it® only; printed Post-it® only; or no newsletter or Post-it®. The results were combined with those from previous embedded randomised controlled trials in meta-analyses. Results: The overall 12-month response rate was 803/826 (97.2%) (newsletter 95.1%, no newsletter 99.3%, printed Post-it® 97.5%, handwritten Post-it® 97.1%, no Post-it® 97.1%). The study update newsletter had a detrimental effect on response rates (adjusted odds ratio 0.14, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.48, p<0.01) and time to return the questionnaire (adjusted hazard ratio 0.86, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.99, p=0.04). No other statistically significant differences were observed between the intervention groups on response rates, time to response, and the need for a reminder. Conclusions: Post-it® notes have been shown to be ineffective in three embedded trials, whereas the evidence for newsletter reminders is still uncertain.

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Randomised controlled trial; randomisation; embedded trial; newsletter; Post-it® note; response rate