Statistical Design Features of the Healthy Communities Study
The Healthy Communities Study is designed to assess relationships between characteristics of community programs and policies targeting childhood obesity and children's BMI, diet, and physical activity. The study involved a complex data collection protocol implemented over a 2-year period (2013-2015) across a diverse sample of 130 communities, defined as public high school catchment areas. The protocol involved baseline assessment within each community that included in-person or telephone interviews regarding community programs and policies and in-home collection of BMI, nutritional, and physical activity outcomes from a sample of up to 81 children enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade in public schools. The protocol also involved medical record reviews to establish a longitudinal trajectory of BMI for an estimated 70% of participating children. Staged sampling was used to collect less detailed measures of physical activity and nutrition across the entire sample of children, with a subset assessed using more costly, burdensome, and detailed measures. Data from the Healthy Community Study will be analyzed using both cross-sectional and longitudinal models that account for the complex design and correct for measurement error and bias using a likelihood-based Markov-chain Monte Carlo methodology. This methods paper provides insights into the complex design features of the Healthy Communities Study and may serve as an example for future large-scale studies that assess the relationship between community-based programs and policies and health outcomes of community residents.