Cluster randomized controlled trials (cRCTs; also known as group randomized trials and community-randomized trials) are multilevel experiments in which units that are randomly assigned to experimental conditions are sets of grouped individuals, whereas outcomes are recorded at the individual level. In human cRCTs, clusters that are randomly assigned are typically families, classrooms, schools, worksites, or counties. With growing interest in community-based, public health, and policy interventions to reduce obesity or improve nutrition, the use of cRCTs has increased. Errors in the design, analysis, and interpretation of cRCTs are unfortunately all too common. This situation seems to stem in part from investigator confusion about how the unit of randomization affects causal inferences and the statistical procedures required for the valid estimation and testing of effects. In this article, we provide a brief introduction and overview of the importance of cRCTs and highlight and explain important considerations for the design, analysis, and reporting of cRCTs by using published examples.
- Community randomized trial
- Group randomized trial
- Intraclass correlation coefficient
- Power analysis
- Reporting fidelity