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Open Access Study protocol

Assessing the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of adaptive e-Learning to improve dietary behaviour: protocol for a systematic review

Phil Edwards1*, Lambert Felix1, Jody Harris1, Elaine Ferguson1, Caroline Free1, Jane Landon2, Karen Lock3, Susan Michie4, Alec Miners5 and Elizabeth Murray6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

2 Deputy Chief Executive, National Heart Forum, Tavistock House South, Tavistock Square London WC1H 9LG, UK

3 Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

4 Research Department of Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB, UK

5 Department of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

6 Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, Holborn Union Building, Archway Campus, Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:200  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-200

Published: 21 April 2010

Abstract

Background

The composition of habitual diets is associated with adverse or protective effects on aspects of health. Consequently, UK public health policy strongly advocates dietary change for the improvement of population health and emphasises the importance of individual empowerment to improve health. A new and evolving area in the promotion of dietary behavioural change is e-Learning, the use of interactive electronic media to facilitate teaching and learning on a range of issues, including diet and health. The aims of this systematic review are to determine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of adaptive e-Learning for improving dietary behaviours.

Methods/Design

The research will consist of a systematic review and a cost-effectiveness analysis. Studies will be considered for the review if they are randomised controlled trials, involving participants aged 13 or over, which evaluate the effectiveness or efficacy of interactive software programmes for improving dietary behaviour. Primary outcome measures will be those related to dietary behaviours, including estimated intakes of energy, nutrients and dietary fibre, or the estimated number of servings per day of foods or food groups. Secondary outcome measures will be objective clinical measures that are likely to respond to changes in dietary behaviours, such as anthropometry or blood biochemistry. Knowledge, self-efficacy, intention and emotion will be examined as mediators of dietary behaviour change in order to explore potential mechanisms of action. Databases will be searched using a comprehensive four-part search strategy, and the results exported to a bibliographic database. Two review authors will independently screen results to identify potentially eligible studies, and will independently extract data from included studies, with any discrepancies at each stage settled by a third author. Standardised forms and criteria will be used.

A descriptive analysis of included studies will describe study design, participants, the intervention, and outcomes. Statistical analyses appropriate to the data extracted, and an economic evaluation using a cost-utility analysis, will be undertaken if sufficient data exist, and effective components of successful interventions will be investigated.

Discussion

This review aims to provide comprehensive evidence of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of adaptive e-Learning interventions for dietary behaviour change, and explore potential psychological mechanisms of action and the effective components of effective interventions. This can inform policy makers and healthcare commissioners in deciding whether e-Learning should be part of a comprehensive response to the improvement of dietary behaviour for health, and if so which components should be present for interventions to be effective.