Cost-effectiveness of reducing children's sedentary time and increasing physical activity at school: the Transform-Us! intervention

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2024 Feb 12;21(1):15. doi: 10.1186/s12966-024-01560-3.


Background: Improving physical activity and reducing sedentary behavior represent important areas for intervention in childhood in order to reduce the burden of chronic disease related to obesity and physical inactivity in later life. This paper aims to determine the cost-effectiveness of a multi-arm primary school-based intervention to increase physical activity and/or reduce sedentary time in 8-9 year old children (Transform-Us!).

Methods: Modelled cost-utility analysis, using costs and effects from a cluster randomized controlled trial of a 30-month intervention that used pedagogical and environmental strategies to reduce and break up sedentary behaviour (SB-I), promote physical activity (PA-I), or a combined approach (PA + SB-I), compared to current practice. A validated multiple-cohort lifetable model (ACE-Obesity Policy model) estimated the obesity and physical activity-related health outcomes (measured as change in body mass index and change in metabolic equivalent task minutes respectively) and healthcare cost-savings over the cohort's lifetime from the public-payer perspective, assuming the intervention was delivered to all 8-9 year old children attending Australian Government primary schools. Sensitivity analyses tested the impact on cost-effectiveness of varying key input parameters, including maintenance of intervention effect assumptions.

Results: Cost-effectiveness results demonstrated that, when compared to control schools, the PA-I and SB-I intervention arms were "dominant", meaning that they resulted in net health benefits and healthcare cost-savings if the intervention effects were maintained. When the costs and effects of these intervention arms were extrapolated to the Australian population, results suggested significant potential as obesity prevention measures (PA-I: 60,780 HALYs saved (95% UI 15,007-109,413), healthcare cost-savings AUD641M (95% UI AUD165M-$1.1B); SB-I: 61,126 HALYs saved (95% UI 11,770 - 111,249), healthcare cost-savings AUD654M (95% UI AUD126M-1.2B)). The PA-I and SB-I interventions remained cost-effective in sensitivity analysis, assuming the full decay of intervention effect after 10 years.

Conclusions: The PA-I and SB-I Transform-Us! intervention arms represent good value for money and could lead to health benefits and healthcare cost-savings arising from the prevention of chronic disease in later life if intervention effects are sustained.

Trial registration: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN83725066). Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Number (ACTRN12609000715279).

Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; Economic evaluation; Physical activity; Sedentary behavior.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Exercise
  • Health Promotion* / methods
  • Humans
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Schools
  • Sedentary Behavior*