Operational design and quality control in the CATCH multicenter trial

Elaine J. Stone, Stavroula K. Osganian, Sonja M. McKinlay, Margaret C. Wu, Larry S. Webber, Russell V. Luepker, Cheryl L. Perry, Guy S. Parcel, John P. Elder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Background. The Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH) was the first multicenter school-based research study to employ the fundamentals of clinical trials including the standardized protocol and Manuals of Operation, a steering committee for study governance, a distributed data system, an extensive quality control system, and a Data and Safety Monitoring Board. Method. CATCH tested the effectiveness of changes in school lunches, physical education, smoking policy, curricula, and family activities. Ninety-six elementary schools in four states were randomized to intervention or control conditions. The baseline cohort comprised 5,106 ethnically diverse third graders followed through fifth grade. Results. The percentages of calories from fat and saturated fat were reduced significantly more in the intervention school lunches than among the controls. Significant increases in moderate to vigorous activity levels in existing physical education classes were made as well. Changes in self-reported dietary, physical activity, and psychosocial measures were significant. There were no significant differences in the physiological measures. Measurement error was generally low for all physiologic measures except skinfolds, indicating a high level of reliability. Across all sites, the coefficients of variation for lipids, height, and weight were less than 3%, whereas for skinfolds, they were considerably higher, ranging from 6 to 8%. Intraclass correlations for lipid studies were also uniformly high at 0.99. Interobserver agreement scores for SOFIT were greater than 90% for 9 of the 11 activities observed. Data entry error rates were low with less than five errors per 1,000 fields for all forms. Conclusions. The CATCH results provided more scientific evidence on the importance of schools in the population approach to health promotion. Many of the strategies used in this complex multicenter trial in the areas of design and analysis, measurement, training, data management, and quality control protocols might be appropriate for adoption in other studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-399
Number of pages16
JournalPreventive medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1996

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by funds from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (HL-39880, HL-39906, HL-39852, HL-39927, HL-39870). Address correspondence and reprint requests to Elaine J. Stone, Ph.D., M.P.H., Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Two Rockledge Centre, MSC 7936, 6701 Rockledge Drive, Room 8136, Bethesda, MD 20892., Fax: (301) 480-1773.


  • children
  • multicenter trial
  • quality control
  • schools


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