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J Nurs Scholarsh. 2007;39(3):214-21.

Design of control-group conditions in clinical trials of behavioral interventions.

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Center for Gerontological Nursing, School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



To review considerations in the design of placebo (attention) control conditions for community-based clinical trials of health behavior change interventions and to provide practical strategies for the design of control conditions.


A well-designed control condition is an essential component of a clinical trial to foster the unambiguous interpretation of study findings.


Pitfalls in the design of control conditions in clinical trials of behavioral interventions are identified and strategies to address them are offered. Types of control conditions that have been used in fall prevention trials are described, along with their strengths and weaknesses. The control condition used in the recent fall evaluation and prevention program (FEPP) was designed to overcome limitations of previous trial designs; it is provided to illustrate how to apply specific design principles.


Pitfalls in the design of behavioral intervention studies may be avoided with the application of sound design principles. The FEPP active control condition can be used as a model in the design of future studies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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