Health allowance for improving the nutritional status and development of 3-5-year-old left-behind children in poor rural areas of China: study protocol for a cluster randomised trial

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Qian Lin
  • Lina Yang
  • Hong Qin
  • Mingzhi Li
  • Jing Deng
  • Jingcheng Shi
  • Jihua Chen


BACKGROUND: Left-behind children (LBC) are recognised as a new social group in China. LBC are young children who are abandoned in rural villages whilst their parents travel to distant urban centres for employment (a new generation of migrant workers). Following the rapid growth in the number of migrant workers, the LBC population is also rapidly increasing. These children are usually left to be raised by elderly grandparents, a single parent, or sometimes distant relatives or neighbours who have limited resources, tend to have a poor education and sometimes are in frail health. Over 40 % of the 61 million LBC in China who are under 5 years old are undernourished, which affects their long-term health and abilities. An intervention that combines a conditional cash transfer (CCT) with nutrition education offers a potential solution.

METHODS/DESIGN: A cluster randomised controlled trial design will be used to allocate 40 villages to the intervention arm (20 villages) or control arm (20 villages). The caregivers and all of the 3-5-year-old LBC will be the target population. Caregivers in the intervention arm will receive a cash allowance conditional on attending nutrition education sessions, ensuring that the LBC will use basic public health services over a 12-month period. At the baseline, midterm (month 6) and end (month 12) of the intervention period, evaluations will be conducted in all 40 villages. Multilevel generalised linear models will be used to analyse the impact of the intervention on nutrition status and other outcomes, adjusting for baseline levels using an analysis of covariance approach. The cost of the intervention will also be estimated.

DISCUSSION: If found to be cost-effective, the findings will inform the development of a sustainable model to improve nutrition status among LBC in rural areas of China.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Chinese Trial Register (ChiCTR) identifier: CTXY-140003-2 . Registered on 19 Aug 2014.


Original languageEnglish
Article number361
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2015


  • CCT , Development , Left-behind children , Nutrition education , Undernutrition