Challenges in designing, conducting, and reporting oral health behavioral intervention studies in primary school age children: methodological issues
Anna Mary Cooper, Margaret Coffey, Lindsey Dugdill
School of Health Sciences, University of Salford, Salford, UK
Abstract: Often within oral health, clinical outcome measures dominate trial design rather than behavioral outcome measures, and often there is a reliance on proxy self-reporting of children's behavior with no corroboration through triangulation of measures. The complexity of the interventions involved in oral health intervention is often overlooked in trial design, and more flexible pragmatic designs that take account of the research context may be more appropriate. Some of the limitations in oral health behavioral intervention studies (trials) in primary school age children were reported in a recently published Cochrane review. This paper aims to critically discuss the findings of a recent Cochrane review in terms of the methodological implications that arise for future design, development, measurement, and reporting of oral health trials in primary school age children. Key components of the UK Medical Research Council's framework for the design and evaluation of complex interventions are discussed in relation to using taxonomies of behavior change. This paper is not designed to be a definitive guide but aims to bring learning from other areas of public health and health promotion into dental public health. Ultimately, the aim is to aid the design of more successful interventions that produce long-term behavioral changes in children in relation to toothbrushing and nighttime sugar snacking.
Keywords: oral health, primary school age children, behavioral intervention, trial design, evaluation
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