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Engaging stakeholders and target groups in prioritising a public health intervention: the Creating Active School Environments (CASE) online Delphi study
  1. Katie L Morton1,
  2. Andrew J Atkin1,
  3. Kirsten Corder1,
  4. Marc Suhrcke2,
  5. David Turner3,
  6. Esther M F van Sluijs1
  1. 1MRC Epidemiology Unit and UKCRC Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  2. 2Centre for Health Economics, University of York, York, UK
  3. 3Norwich Medical School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Esther MF van Sluijs; ev234{at}


Objectives Stakeholder engagement and public involvement are considered as integral to developing effective public health interventions and is encouraged across all phases of the research cycle. However, limited guidelines and appropriate tools exist to facilitate stakeholder engagement—especially during the intervention prioritisation phase. We present the findings of an online ‘Delphi’ study that engaged stakeholders (including young people) in the process of prioritising secondary school environment-focused interventions that aim to increase physical activity.

Setting Web-based data collection using an online Delphi tool enabling participation of geographically diverse stakeholders.

Participants 37 stakeholders participated, including young people (age 13–16 years), parents, teachers, public health practitioners, academics and commissioners; 33 participants completed both rounds.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Participants were asked to prioritise a (short-listed) selection of school environment-focused interventions (eg, standing desks, outdoor design changes) based on the criteria of ‘reach’, ‘equality’, ‘acceptability’, ‘feasibility’, ‘effectiveness’ and ‘cost’. Participants were also asked to rank the criteria and the effectiveness outcomes (eg, physical activity, academic achievement, school enjoyment) from most to least important. Following feedback along with any new information provided, participants completed round 2 4 weeks later.

Results The intervention prioritisation process was feasible to conduct and comments from participants indicated satisfaction with the process. Consensus regarding intervention strategies was achieved among the varied groups of stakeholders, with ‘active lessons’ being the favoured approach. Participants ranked ‘mental health and well-being’ as the most important outcome followed by ‘enjoyment of school’. The most important criteria was ‘effectiveness’, followed by ‘feasibility’.

Conclusions This novel approach to engaging a wide variety of stakeholders in the research process was feasible to conduct and acceptable to participants. It also provided insightful information relating to how stakeholders prioritise interventions. The approach could be extended beyond the specific project to be a useful tool for researchers and practitioners.

  • public involvement
  • stakeholder engagement
  • Delphi
  • physical activity
  • adolescent
  • school

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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  • Twitter Follow Katie Morton @katiemorton84 and Esther van Sluijs @EvanSluijs

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conceptualisation of this study, critically reviewed and approved the final manuscript. KLM prepared the evidence summaries and designed the content for the online Delphi tool. All authors provided input to the development of the evidence summaries. KLM conducted the analyses and drafted the manuscript.

  • Funding This report is independent research commissioned and funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme (opportunities within the school environment to shift the distribution of activity intensity in adolescents, PR-R5-0213-25001). This work was also supported by the Medical Research Council (unit programme number: MC_UU_12015/7). The work was undertaken under the auspices of the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research, and the Wellcome Trust (MR/K023187/1).

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Department of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of Cambridge Psychology Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.