Development and testing the feasibility of a sports-based mental health promotion intervention in Nepal: a protocol for a pilot cluster-randomised controlled trial

Kelly Rose-Clarke, Damodar Rimal, Joanna Morrison, Indira Pradhan, Gerard Abou Jaoude, Brian Moore, Louise Banham, Justin Richards, Mark Jordans, Audrey Prost, Nabin Lamichhane, Jaya Regmee, Kamal Gautam, Nagendra P Luitel

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BACKGROUND: Mental wellbeing encompasses life satisfaction, social connectedness, agency and resilience. In adolescence, mental wellbeing reduces sexual health risk behaviours, substance use and violence; improves educational outcomes; and protects mental health in adulthood. Mental health promotion seeks to improve mental wellbeing and can include activities to engage participants in sport. However, few high-quality trials of mental health promotion interventions have been conducted with adolescents, especially in low- and middle-income countries. We sought to address this gap by testing SMART (Sports-based Mental heAlth pRomotion for adolescenTs) in a pilot cluster-randomised controlled trial (cRCT) in Bardiya, Nepal.

METHODS: The objectives of the trial are to assess the acceptability and feasibility of SMART, test trial procedures, explore outcome distributions in intervention and control clusters and calculate the total annual cost of the intervention and unit cost per adolescent. The trial design is a parallel-group, two-arm superiority pilot cRCT with a 1:1 allocation ratio and two cross-sectional census surveys with adolescents aged 12-19, one pre-intervention (baseline) and one post-intervention (endline). The study area is four communities of approximately 1000 population (166 adolescents per community). Each community represents one cluster. SMART comprises twice weekly football, martial arts and dance coaching, open to all adolescents in the community, led by local sports coaches who have received psychosocial training. Sports melas (festivals) and theatre performances will raise community awareness about SMART, mental health and the benefits of sport. Adolescents in control clusters will participate in sport as usual. In baseline and endline surveys, we will measure mental wellbeing, self-esteem, self-efficacy, emotion regulation, social support, depression, anxiety and functional impairment. Using observation checklists, unstructured observation and attendance registers from coaching sessions, and minutes of meetings between coaches and supervisors, we will assess intervention fidelity, exposure and reach. In focus group discussions and interviews with coaches, teachers, caregivers and adolescents, we will explore intervention acceptability and mechanisms of change. Intervention costs will be captured from monthly project accounts, timesheets and discussions with staff members.

DISCUSSION: Findings will identify elements of the intervention and trial procedures requiring revision prior to a full cRCT to evaluate the effectiveness of SMART.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN, ISRCTN15973986 , registered on 6 September 2022;, NCT05394311 , registered 27 May 2022.

Original languageEnglish
Article number149
Pages (from-to)149
JournalPilot and Feasibility Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2023

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