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Activity and Healthy Eating in Adolescence (AHEAD)

The following people are involved with this project:

More about this project

There is little high-quality evidence about how to increase physical activity and healthy eating amongst adolescents. The ASSIST peer-led model, developed during a previous study in the School of Social and Community Medicine, offers a potentially effective approach.

AHEAD is a two-year feasibility study incorporating two of the phases in the MRC’s framework for evaluating complex interventions.

Phase I involves the development of a schools-based peer-led intervention to increase physical activity and healthy eating amongst Year 8 students, based on existing evidence and focus group discussions with key stakeholders. This phase also includes a pilot study in one school.

Phase II will comprises an exploratory trial of the peer-led intervention in six secondary schools (three randomised to participate in the intervention and three to act as control schools).  The study includes a process evaluation and an economic evaluation.


  • To explore with key stakeholders the barriers to, and facilitators of, physical activity and healthy eating to inform the development of the peer supporter intervention.
  • To develop a training programme for ‘peer supporters’ that would enable them, in everyday situations, to encourage increased physical activity and healthy eating amongst their peers.
  • To conduct an exploratory randomised trial of the intervention in six secondary schools to pilot recruitment and consent procedures, examine retention rates and variation in outcome measures, establish an estimate of the intra-cluster correlation coefficient (ICC), and estimate what might be feasible effect sizes and intervention costs for a future full-scale RCT.


The developmental work undertaken via this feasibility study will enable preparation of a detailed and evidence-based protocol for a Phase III trial through which the intervention’s effectiveness could be thoroughly assessed (and for which additional funding would be sought).

  • Scientific papers on the feasibility study methodology and findings will be prepared for publication in international peer-reviewed journals.
  • Dissemination will also be undertaken via academic and practitioner conferences to ensure that as wide a range of professional stakeholders as possible are aware of the study.
  • Feedback of the study findings to all participants will also be undertaken.
  • Consultation will take place with the young people and teachers involved in the project’s working group on the most appropriate format for this dissemination.
Project dates
01 Oct 2007 - 01 Sep 2009
Project director(s):
Rona Campbell
Project funder:
Department of Health Research Initiative to support implementation of the National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services
Rona Campbell