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Using RCTS to Evaluate Social Interventions: Have We Got It Right?

Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) provide the gold standard method to obtain evidence of intervention impact. Historically, the approach was developed to assess the impact of clinical interventions. Increasingly however, RCTs – both individual and cluster – are being used to assess a broad range of behavioural and social interventions. Although some argue that using randomised designs are not appropriate for evaluating social and community based interventions, we disagree. Whilst there may be challenges (as there often are with clinical interventions), randomisation and the use of control populations should always be considered, as this gives the most robust measure of effect size. But this doesn’t mean that we have everything right. Drawing upon examples from intervention research on HIV, as part of the STRIVE research programme, and on violence against women, as part of the LSHTM Gender, Violence and Health Centre, the presentation will discuss whether it is appropriate to apply all of the standards and ‘rules’, without consideration of the potential implications for the feasibility, forms and applicability of evidence generated.

Professor Charlotte Watts is Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Department of International Development (DFID).  In this role she is Director of the Research and Evidence Division and Head of the Science and Engineering Profession for DFID. She is currently seconded to DFID from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where she is Professor of Social and Mathematical Epidemiology. 

This lecture will be live-streamed/recorded - accessible to both internal and external audience 

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LSHTM, CEDIL, Centre for Evaluation

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