A cluster-randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of an obesity prevention programme for Chinese primary school-aged children: the CHIRPY DRAGON study protocol

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Introduction: Childhood obesity in China has increased more rapidly and over a shorter time period than in other countries. However, there is a paucity of rigorously developed and evaluated prevention interventions. We aim to evaluate the clinical and cost-effectiveness as well as the implementation process of a complex multi-component intervention developed using the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) framework. This study provides one of the first examples of rigorous development and evaluation of a childhood obesity prevention programme in a non-western population using the MRC methods.

Methods and analysis: A cluster randomised controlled trial in 40 primary schools in Guangzhou, China, including children aged 6-7 years at baseline. Schools will be randomly allocated to either the usual practice (n=20) or intervention arm (n=20). The 12-month intervention consists of four components targeting diet and physical activity behaviours in and outside school, with family involvement. The primary objective is to compare the difference in mean BMI z-score between the intervention and control arms at the end of the intervention (starting March/April 2017). A sample size of 1,640 pupils recruited from 40 schools is sufficient to detect a difference of 0.17 units in the mean BMI z score with a power of 80% (ICC=0.01) and a significance level of 5%. Treatment effects will be tested using a mixed linear model in STATA adjusting for the child baseline BMI z-score and clustering by school. All analyses will be by intention to treat. Secondary analyses will additionally adjust for pre-specified school- and child-level covariates. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for the intervention versus usual practice will be ‘cost per Quality Adjusted Life Year (QALY)’. Cost per change in BMI z score will also be assessed. A range of methods will be used to evaluate intervention implementation, mechanisms of impact and contextual factors.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval was obtained from the Life and Health Sciences Ethical Review Committee at the University of Birmingham and the Ethical Committee of Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The primary, secondary, process evaluation and economic evaluation results of the trial will be disseminated through relevant international peer-reviewed journals and conferences.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere018415
JournalBMJ open
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017