Field Trials of Health Interventions: A Toolbox
Peter G. Smith, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Richard H. Morrow, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
David A. Ross, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Copyright Year: 2015
ISBN 13: 9780198732860
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Conditions of Use
This is a comprehensive guide to trial design and planning, providing the right level of breadth and depth, and giving the reader all of the key information I would imagine ever needing when getting ready to plan a new trial in an LMIC. It also... read more
This is a comprehensive guide to trial design and planning, providing the right level of breadth and depth, and giving the reader all of the key information I would imagine ever needing when getting ready to plan a new trial in an LMIC. It also provides excellent explanations for those who plan to go out and do field work but who might not have a statistician on hand how to figure out trial design, randomization approaches, and power calculations, a side of program planning that is often not included in texts that focus more on the broad strokes of program design.
This book is thoughtful, well researched, and well sourced. I did not see any evidence of bias or error.
Very relevant, and set up in a way that most of the fundamentals won't become outdated anytime soon.
This book is amazingly clear and concise for a text like this. It is amazing how much material they have managed to pack into such seemingly short and to the point chapters.
I really appreciate how modular this book has the potential to be. I think you can easily take out chapters or sections that might not be relevant for a specific class and still have it flow and make sense. This was clearly part of their intent, and they succeeded.
This book has a very natural flow to it that starts from the first stages of planning and leads all the way through to analysis. It is very logical.
I don't know if this is necessarily an interface comment, because there isn't really anything to interface with in this book. However, the book could use more images, graphics, bullet points--ways to break up the text. As it stands currently, it is very dense and text heavy visually. While this is fine for advanced readers, undergraduates definitely engage better with books that have more pictures and models to break things up a bit more.
Good grammar, no visible errors.
This book did not strike me as being offensive in any way, and does a good job discussing human subjects in trial examples with respect. There is also a whole section that talks about the ethical considerations when planning trials in LMICs, as well as logistical/ethical/ training considerations and differences between doing trials in HICs vs LMICs.
I believe this book could fairly easily have been expanded to talk about interventions more broadly than just “trials”, and in that case would have been even more useful. Much of the advice, regarding research design, evaluation techniques, and more are universally accurate for research projects that are not “trials” per say, as well as for many public health programs that simply want to have rigorous design and evaluation strategies built in. But, I do appreciate that social and behavioral/educational trials were also included. It is an amazing resource for planning trials! I wish there was an equivalent open source book available with a more domestic focus that I would use in my undergraduate program planning class, and plan to cobble things together so that I can use sections of this text going forward.
The book is very comprehensive on the specific topic of intervention trials. It covers a range of steps from planning to execution of trials (even including formulas for sample size calculations and tips for grant applications), and anticipates... read more
The book is very comprehensive on the specific topic of intervention trials. It covers a range of steps from planning to execution of trials (even including formulas for sample size calculations and tips for grant applications), and anticipates many challenges and questions new researchers may have. The book includes many useful references and links to software and other resources, and definitely serves as an important toolbox for field researchers.
The content is scientifically accurate and error-free. It is only biased in that is presents the perspective of high-income researchers only and is limited to a strict biomedical understanding of health.
Many of the concepts of trial design and implementation will continue to be relevant for a long time. Although the third edition includes a number of important updates, as the global health field considers how to evaluate increasingly complex interventions (beyond standard RCTs), this book will need to be supplemented with other materials related to implementation research and community participatory research.
The book is very clear and very well-written. It may not be best for introductory classes, as the book presupposes some familiarity with low resource settings, various health interventions and some field research concepts. It is most suited for students preparing to undertake field research. However, as a toolbox, students will find it easy to navigate and the descriptions within each section provide a good starting point for additional learning on any given sub-topic.
The text is internally consistent in framework and terminology. There is a list of acronyms and most terms are well-defined at first usage.
This book is very modular and is specifically designed to be more of a reference than a book to read cover-to-cover. If anything, sections are too short, but provide a nice overview of each topic, which can then be supplemented with articles and lectures. Small sections can very easily be assigned, chronologically, in a different order, or only certain sections. Both the online and PDF versions lend themselves well to printing only the needed sections, which can save unnecessary printing.
The book is well-organized and easy to follow. The table of contents is clear in the PDF, and on the online version, it is very easy to skip between sections. While it is not intended to be read in its entirety, the sections are presented chronologically for those who want to follow each step in the process in order.
The interface is fine. The book is clearly designed as a black-and-white hard copy, and future online editions may consider more colorful or interactive features. The layout of the online version is very easy to follow, although only the sections have hyperlinks, not any of the headings. The entire text is also available for free online and as PDF through Medline; the PDF version appears identical on both sites, but the Open Textbook online version has a simple layout with the contents on the left, and a built-in search feature that allows scanning of the entire book.
The text contains few, if any, significant grammatical errors.
While the book is not offensive per se, it takes as given a biomedical model of intervention and research, and imagines that the reader and user are from high-income countries and who will be carrying out research in low and middle income countries (which reflects the experience of the authors). There is a chapter on community engagement which raises important issues, but also comes from the viewpoint of an "outsider" who has already designed a study and is setting priorities, rather than a true collaborative or community-directed process. There is limited consideration of power dynamics and historical abuses of such.
I used this book as a graduate student myself and still find it very relevant. Each edition has improved and, although there are still real critiques about the narrow worldview presented, this book continues to be a staple of teaching field trial methodologies in public health programs. Given that the book is close to 500 pages, it is wonderful that this is available as a free, online resource, and I'm hopeful it can be utilized globally, including by students and scholars in low and middle income countries.
This book is a toolkit for students and academic staff to use to get experience of the practical component of undertaking research around public/global health and epidemiology, however this can be read by a wider audience. This book covers the... read more
This book is a toolkit for students and academic staff to use to get experience of the practical component of undertaking research around public/global health and epidemiology, however this can be read by a wider audience. This book covers the whole research process from designing, and researching topic areas to the different study designs and practical analysis over 23 chapters. This sounds a lot but this type of book should be used as a resource rather than reading from cover to cover. The index is very detailed and useful to use the text to find specific topic areas.
The text is written to a very high standard and is easy to read without being too technical for students to read.
The book is a toolkit covering a wide range of research methodologies, it has already been updated and is in it's third edition. The design of the book means that any new topic areas could be included as new chapters and easy to update.
The text is very clear, and straightforward without dumbing down the topic area, this would be good for students to use as an overview and there are appropriate references to get further reading where appropriate.
The terms in the text are consistent throughout
The chapters lend themselves very well for teaching such as research designs, questionnaire design, ethical issues etc at any level undergraduate, postgraduate. Overall the text book will be very helpful for those undertaking any practical work/research.
The book is well organised, and flows in a logical manner
Personally I prefer the pdf version of the book rather than the online version
This is a really easy to read, practical book which will be really helpful for students undertaking any practical field work. It is quite light to read and will help students understand the overall research processes and aims. It does cover a wide range of topics that are not covered well elsewhere.
The textbook does a great job focusing on a relatively narrow area (field trials of health interventions) quite exhaustively. The scope of the book further narrows the area to "disease problems in low and middle-income countries" and RCTs. The... read more
The textbook does a great job focusing on a relatively narrow area (field trials of health interventions) quite exhaustively. The scope of the book further narrows the area to "disease problems in low and middle-income countries" and RCTs. The index is expansive. There is no glossary that I could find, and I think it would be a useful addition. It does, however, have a section on acronyms which is a good addition.
Content appears to be accurate and well supported (e.g., references). I did not detect errors or bias.
The text is constructed in a way that facilitates longevity, for example focusing on processes, theories, and contexts broadly. Although these elements are unlikely to change significantly in a short period of time, the text will need to add content to adapt to changing circumstances, especially as technological aspects continue to enter into health-interventions. For example, 4.7 on pg 353 discusses "future trends" talks about paper surveys and introduces other, more mediated, data collection strategies. It is my impression that these strategies will only continue to grow and change as time goes on.
I found the text easy to read and comprehend. However, I recognize that I will (I hope) have a higher reading comprehension than a typical undergraduate. I believe there will be terms that are part of scientists' everyday vocabulary but would benefit from explanation for students. This is where a glossary and little text boxes on the side would really improve the book. For example, take the word "longitudinal." Authors start using it in text on pg. 297 but I don't think they defined in anywhere. Sure, I know what it means but my students won't until after they take research methods. And even then, they may have forgotten in between semesters. PG 44 talks about "sample size." Again, my students wouldn't really know what this is until after research methods. Perhaps this is an unfair critique and the text is not aimed at undergraduate students. Indeed, the "about" says "... text to be used as a “toolbox” by field investigators." Perhaps undergraduate students are not the intended audience, however, I this text as part of an initiative to encourage instructors to use open text sources for undergraduate instruction.
I detected no issues with consistency.
While I do not believe this text could be chopped up and reorganized (it would defeat the purpose of what is more of a manual and less of a traditional textbook "overview" of an area), I do believe that professors may be able to assign particular sections/chapters as they are relevant to other aspects of the course. I could see this text being very useful in a graduate class that is the precursor of a capstone/thesis/dissertation project (but after methods courses, not replacing methods and data analysis courses). I could also see myself assigning particular chapters within a health communication course (ours is upper level so I would assume students had already taken research methods and could understand the terms that are undefined in the text).
The text is presented in a logical, clear, almost chronological fashion.
The text interface is very straightforward. I did not have any navigation problems or detect and distortion of charts/images. I really like that you can download the text as a pdf. The others I considered reviewing seemed to only be available for review by "reading" online (note that they indicated the text was retrievable in other formats but it was not immediately apparent how to access those other versions. And if it's not obvious and easy to me my students most assuredly won't take the time to figure it out. IF the text is intended for undergraduates, it could use more images/display features - even if just a box pulled out with glossary words.
I did not find grammatical errors.
I did not find the text culturally insensitive or offensive.
The field guide is comprehensive yet succinct. It reminds the research scientist about most all expected processes but is not overly burdened with details. It does not read like a textbook but as a field guide. read more
The field guide is comprehensive yet succinct. It reminds the research scientist about most all expected processes but is not overly burdened with details. It does not read like a textbook but as a field guide.
Content is accurate, error-free and as far as can be detected, it is unbiased.
The field guide addresses major considerations in construction and implementation of research studies in most any population. As these are expectations of a research project and researcher, significant updates are not anticipated. However, as health care and health care research moves to the community and away from institutions, there may need to be corresponding updates.
The text is clear and limits modifiers, jargon, and technical terminology. A glossary of acronyms is included in the field guide. It is easy to read.
The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
This field guide supports modularity. A student or researcher could easily read one section and gain necessary information.
The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
The text is free of significant interface issues. There are no detected navigation problems, distortions, or distracting display features.
The text contains no detected grammatical errors.
There is an entire chapter about community engagement. The text is not culturally insensitive. It is written for low- and middle-income countries and is sensitive to unique needs of diverse populations.
Field Trials of Health Interventions is thorough, succinct, and well written. It reminds the experienced and novice research scientist of appropriate processes from the design of intervention(s) to reporting of data and findings without missing a step. The field guide is focused on randomized controlled studies in low- and middle-income countries(LMICs) but could be used in most any research setting. I will personally use it in my courses and research.
This text is what the authors call a “toolbox”, a 469-page open access text walking readers through the planning, implementation, data analysis and reporting of field trials (research trials conducted in the “field” or outside of clinical... read more
This text is what the authors call a “toolbox”, a 469-page open access text walking readers through the planning, implementation, data analysis and reporting of field trials (research trials conducted in the “field” or outside of clinical settings). The emphasis is on gold standard of research, Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) conducted in low- and middle income countries (LMICs). With 23 chapters, the 3rd edition of this text is remarkably comprehensive, as illustrated by the detailed table of contents in the PDF version. Instructors in public health/global health and practitioners alike will find this a useful resource.
The detailed content is presented accurately and in a scholarly and academic manner. Sufficient references are provided.
Published in 2015, this is the 3rd edition of this text, which updates and expands content from the 1st edition (1990) and 2nd edition (1996). However, the contributors have organized this “toolbox” in such a way that it will has long-lasting relevance to the field of public health/global health.
Acronyms defined before Chapter 1. As a person with a PhD, I had no trouble with the clarity of the text. However, as an undergraduate instructor I can see where some chapters or subtopics would be unclear for undergraduate students and also perhaps lay health workers or those from community organizations and low resource settings.
The text is very consistent throughout with the terms it uses, and the index is detailed.
This text was not designed to be a textbook, but more like a manual. Since chapters have subtopics it can easily be used for modules in face-to-face and online or hybrid courses. For example, Chapter 14 is on questionnaires and has six sections (1-introduction, 2-questions, 3-questionnaire 4-interviewers 5-data capture 6-the interview) which have subsections. Chapter 14 also has 10 appendices (ie. 14.6-open questions, 14.8-questionnaires for mobile phones)
This is a huge text. Chapter 1 discusses the purpose and context of the book (“toolbox”) and outlines steps to be taken before starting a trial (Chapter 2-13), during trial implementation and data collection (Chapter 14-20) and data analysis, interpretation of results and reporting (Chapter 21, 23). Detailed index also provided
Text is available offline as a PDF and can also be read online. Each format has its pros and cons. The PDF is of course downloadable and makes for easy printing/copying of sections. The online reader version includes hyperlinks by chapter, but not for subtopics of each chapter. It also has a search feature. I do not prefer the way the boxes are presented in the online version.
In my review of this text, I did not notice grammatical errors. Given that this was published by Oxford Press, I imagine a very thorough editing process.
In terms of culture, this text focuses on lessons learned from field trials conducted in LMICs, however the majority of contributors are based in London, UK and Europe. Some chapters give examples for cultural considerations to take when conducting trials in different settings (ie. Ethics, Censuses and Mapping). For example, in Chapter 6 Ethical Considerations, the authors state “It will sometimes be appropriate to keep the identity of the community anonymous, particularly if sensitive issues are discussed, such as hygiene practices or sexual or other practices that are sometimes condemned by other cultures (such as female genital cutting, infanticide, or anal sex).” Chapter 9 Community engagement is an important inclusion for not just LMIC settings but higher income settings as well. Overall, the text is written in a way that is applicable for a variety of cultural backgrounds (race, gender, etc).
“Field Trials of Health Interventions: A Toolbox” may be unlike your average Open Access Text. Editors come from the prestigious London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and this is the 3rd edition. I like the wide array of topics covered, conducting field trials from beginning to end. As an undergraduate instructor, this would be a great, reliable and best of all FREE resource to use in my Health Promotion Program Planning courses and also course on Research Methods, and Global Health. I can pick and choose which chapters are most useful without feeling the need to require the entire text. Authors in Chapter 1 state “We do not envisage that many readers will sit down and read the book from beginning to end! We have called it a ‘toolbox’, because we think this reflects how it might be used, i.e. to consult different chapters and sections to guide different stages in the planning and execution of a trial.”
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1 Introduction to field trials of health interventions
- Chapter 2 Types of intervention and their development
- Chapter 3 Reviewing the literature
- Chapter 4 Trial design
- Chapter 5 Trial size
- Chapter 6 Ethical considerations
- Chapter 7 Trial governance
- Chapter 8 Preparing grant applications
- Chapter 9 Community engagement
- Chapter 10 Censuses and mapping
- Chapter 11 Randomization, blinding, and coding
- Chapter 12 Outcome measures and case definition
- Chapter 13 Preliminary studies and pilot testing
- Chapter 14 Questionnaires
- Chapter 15 Social and behavioural research
- Chapter 16 Field organization and ensuring data of high quality
- Chapter 17 Field laboratory methods
- Chapter 18 Budgeting and accounting
- Chapter 19 Intervention costing and economic analysis
- Chapter 20 Data management
- Chapter 21 Methods of analysis
- Chapter 22 Phase IV studies
- Chapter 23 Reporting and using trial results
About the Book
Before new interventions can be used in disease control programmes, it is essential that they are carefully evaluated in “field trials”, which may be complex and expensive undertakings. Descriptions of the detailed procedures and methods used in trials that have been conducted in the past have generally not been published. As a consequence, those planning such trials have few guidelines available and little access to previously accumulated knowledge. In this book the practical issues of trial design and conduct are discussed fully and in sufficient detail for the text to be used as a “toolbox” by field investigators. The toolbox has now been extensively tested through use of the first two editions and this third edition is a comprehensive revision, incorporating the many developments that have taken place with respect to trials since 1996 and involving more than 30 contributors. Most of the chapters have been extensively revised and 7 new chapters have been added.
About the Contributors
Peter G. Smith, Professor of Tropical Epidemiology, Medical Research Council Tropical Epidemiology Group, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
Richard H. Morrow, Professor of International Health, Department of International Health, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
David A. Ross, Professor of Epidemiology and International Public Health, Medical Research Council Tropical Epidemiology Group, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.