'Trial of the year' award for UCL study

1 April 2011

A UCL study aiming to reduce neonatal mortality rates and maternal depression in very poor communities in eastern India has been awarded 'Trial of the Year' by the Society for Clinical Trials (SCT).

The Society deemed that the Ekjut trial in Jharkhand and Orissa was an "extraordinary randomised clinical trial, conducted with high quality in a very difficult setting, and achieving dramatic results of great public health importance."

'Trial of the year' award for UCL study

The trial was led by Dr Prasanta Tripathy and Dr Nirmala Nair in collaboration with the UCL Centre for International Health and Development, and was considered by the SCT to fulfil the following criteria:

  • It improves the lot of mankind.
  • It provides the basis for a substantial, beneficial change in health care.
  • It reflects expertise in subject matter, excellence in methodology, and concern for study participants.
  • It overcomes obstacles in implementation.
  • The presentation of its design, execution, and results is a model of clarity and intellectual soundness.

The investigators successfully randomised 36 districts to a community intervention (vs. none) which involved using or organising village women’s groups, who engaged in participatory learning and action through play, stories and games. Group members themselves identified newborn health problems within the community and selected their own strategies to address the problems, which they then implemented.

Published in The Lancet in March 2010, the trial results showed that after three years of the intervention, neonatal mortality was reduced by 45% and maternal depression by 57%.

Professor Anthony Costello (UCL Institute for Global Health), was a co-investigator on this study. Explaining the value of such a trial in the developing world, he said: "The trial was designed as a community effectiveness trial rather than an efficacy trial of a perfectly implemented intervention which would be difficult to scale up in the real and resource-limited world in which these tribal populations live. Such trials are essential in the developing world so that we can really estimate the impact and cost-effectiveness of what we do."

The trial’s principal investigator, Dr Prasanta Tripathy, will travel from India to present an overview of the trial methods and findings during the SCT’s 2011 Annual Meeting in Vancouver, BC, Canada in May. Dr Tripathy represents the organisation Ekjut, whose mission it is to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes in the poorest areas of India. 

Professor Costello added: "We're delighted that the trial has been recognised in this way. May I offer my particular thanks to the incredible Ekjut team, to Dr Audrey Prost for her unstinting support to the trial team in India, and to The Health Foundation and the Wellcome Trust for their generous financial support."

Image: Ekjut, Chakradharpur, Jharkhand, India, 2010


UCL context

The UCL Institute for Global Health is:

  • initiating and enhancing discipline- and department-specific programmes, research and teaching
  • stimulating interdisciplinary discourse and intellectual debate across the university
  • enabling the development of activity to make possible effective large-scale multidisciplinary approaches and interventions.

Beyond UCL, it is:

  • creating real and virtual spaces for academic discourse, in the public policy arena and international political processes
  • exploring partnerships with other universities, government, industry, funding bodies, trusts and charities, UK and international agencies to support our research, education, advocacy and public-policy initiatives
  • positioning UCL as the key informant to governments, business and the community about matters relating to global health
  • developing the provision of UCL’s intellectual capital through consultancy and project portfolios.
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