Using the Medical Research Council framework for the development and evaluation of complex interventions in a theory-based infant feeding intervention to prevent childhood obesity: the baby milk intervention and trial.

03 Oct 2017

INTRODUCTION: We describe our experience of using the Medical Research Council framework on complex interventions to guide the development and evaluation of an intervention to prevent obesity by modifying infant feeding behaviours. METHODS: We reviewed the epidemiological evidence on early life risk factors for obesity and interventions to prevent obesity in this age group. The review suggested prevention of excess weight gain in bottle-fed babies and appropriate weaning as intervention targets; hence we undertook systematic reviews to further our understanding of these behaviours. We chose theory and behaviour change techniques that demonstrated evidence of effectiveness in altering dietary behaviours. We subsequently developed intervention materials and evaluation tools and conducted qualitative studies with mothers (intervention recipients) and healthcare professionals (intervention deliverers) to refine them. We developed a questionnaire to assess maternal attitudes and feeding practices to understand the mechanism of any intervention effects. CONCLUSIONS: In addition to informing development of our specific intervention and evaluation materials, use of the Medical Research Council framework has helped to build a generalisable evidence base for early life nutritional interventions. However, the process is resource intensive and prolonged, and this should be taken into account by public health research funders. This trial is registered with ISRTCN: 20814693 Baby Milk Trial.