Analysis of health behaviour change interventions for preventing dental caries delivered in primary schools

Adair, P.M. and Burnside, G. and Pine, C.M. (2013) Analysis of health behaviour change interventions for preventing dental caries delivered in primary schools. Caries Research, 47 (supple). pp. 2-12. ISSN 0008-6568

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Abstract

To improve oral health in children, the key behaviours (tooth brushing and sugar control) responsible for development of dental caries need to be better understood, as well as how to promote these behaviours effectively so they become habitual; and, the specific, optimal techniques to use in interventions. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the behaviour change techniques that have been used in primary school-based interventions to prevent dental caries (utilizing a Cochrane systematic review that we have undertaken) and to identify opportunities for improving future interventions by incorporating a comprehensive range of behaviour change techniques. Papers of five interventions were reviewed and data were independently extracted. Results indicate that behaviour change techniques were limited to information-behaviour links, information on consequences, instruction and demonstration of behaviours. None of the interventions were based on behaviour change theory. We conclude that behaviour change techniques used in school interventions to reduce dental caries were limited and focused around providing information about how behaviour impacts on health and the consequences of not developing the correct health behaviours as well as providing oral hygiene instruction. Establishing which techniques are effective is difficult due to poor reporting of interventions in studies. Future design of oral health promotion interventions using behaviour change theory for development and evaluation (and reporting results in academic journals) could strengthen the potential for efficacy and provide a framework to use a much wider range of behaviour change techniques. Future studies should include development and publication of intervention manuals which is becoming standard practice in other health promoting programmes.