Completeness of reporting and risks of overstating impact in cluster randomised trials: a systematic review

Elizabeth L Turner* (Corresponding Author), Alyssa C Platt, John A Gallis, Kaitlin Tetreault, Christina Easter, Joanne E McKenzie, Stephen Nash, Andrew B Forbes, Karla Hemming, CRT Binary Outcome Reporting Group

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Overstating the impact of interventions through incomplete or inaccurate reporting can lead to inappropriate scale-up of interventions with low impact. Accurate reporting of the impact of interventions is of great importance in global health research to protect scarce resources. In global health, the cluster randomised trial design is commonly used to evaluate complex, multicomponent interventions, and outcomes are often binary. Complete reporting of impact for binary outcomes means reporting both relative and absolute measures. We did a systematic review to assess reporting practices and potential to overstate impact in contemporary cluster randomised trials with binary primary outcome. We included all reports registered in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials of two-arm parallel cluster randomised trials with at least one binary primary outcome that were published in 2017. Of 73 cluster randomised trials, most (60 [82%]) showed incomplete reporting. Of 64 cluster randomised trials for which it was possible to evaluate, most (40 [63%]) reported results in such a way that impact could be overstated. Care is needed to report complete evidence of impact for the many interventions evaluated using the cluster randomised trial design worldwide.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1163-e1168
Number of pages6
JournalThe Lancet Global Health
Issue number8
Early online date21 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note


We received no funding specifically for this systematic review. ELT is funded in part by awards R01-AI141444 from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and R01-MH120649 from the US National Institute of Mental Health; both Institutes are part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). JAG and ACP's support of this project was made possible (in part) by grant number UL1TR002553 from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the NIH, and the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research. JEM is supported by an Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellowship (APP1143429). SN was supported by an award that is jointly funded by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) under the MRC/DFID Concordat agreement, and part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union (grant reference MR/R010161/1). ABF acknowledges funding support from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (grant ID 1183303). KH is funded by a National Institute for Health Research Senior Research Fellowship SRF-2017-10-002. The contents of the research included in this manuscript are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of any of the funders. The research contributed by all authors of this manuscript are independent of their funders. Specifically, the funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We wish to thank the three reviewers for their insightful comments and constructive feedback.


Dive into the research topics of 'Completeness of reporting and risks of overstating impact in cluster randomised trials: a systematic review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this