Workplans: A Program Management Tool
Program Planning: Activities
Activities are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. They are steps taken to accomplish objectives. When related to objectives, activities have a purpose. Activities are what a program does—its specific tasks to meet its objectives and ultimately fulfill its goal.
Examples include educating the public about the importance of early detection of breast and cervical cancer through the distribution of printed materials, using outreach workers to enroll women for screening, and training health professionals about screening technology.
Activities answer the question:
"To meet this objective, what action(s) are needed?"
The activities necessary to accomplish a specific objective should be selected with careful consideration given to—
- Program Data.
- Literature Reviews.
- Community Members and Other Experts.
Descriptions of the considerations listed above follow.
Data collected through some type of assessment, such as a community analysis, can be used to determine which activities may be most successful. Not only can this information help you determine what activities you should implement, it can also help you to fine-tune those activities so they are tailored to your intended audience or your program's present situation. Information from focus groups, surveys, interviews, and observation can be used to help determine your program's activities.
When planning activities for your intended audience, remember that every activity must be responsive to the unique cultural issues and needs of that group. Some types of assessment or data review, such as a community analysis, may help identify issues within a specific community or audience.
A focused review of the literature, especially review articles or meta-analyses (i.e., analysis of many analyses), would be very useful when trying to determine which activities to implement. To minimize cost and ensure useful results when conducting a literature review, it is necessary to establish parameters (e.g., dates of publications, search criteria, key terminology).
The collective wisdom of a program's staff is a valuable resource. When a team approach is used to develop objectives, stakeholders have an opportunity to devise and discuss activities that might lead to the achievement of a specific objective. Talk with other programs. Tell them what you are planning to do and ask them to describe their evaluation component. Use their lessons learned to guide your activity development.
Community Members and Other Experts
Ideas for activities can be generated in many ways. You can conduct focus groups or interviews with members of the intended audience, or you can conduct interviews with key players. Another option is to consult an individual or group of individuals who are known to have expertise in a certain area. For example, you could talk with an evaluation expert at a local university or discuss possible activities with a professional consultant.
When planning activities, keep in mind that other programs' success with a particular activity will not guarantee success in your community. Remember always to keep your intended audience, as determined by your program data and community analysis, in mind when planning and implementing an activity.
When developing or selecting activities, you must be able to justify why a particular activity would help achieve a specific objective.
When selecting specific activities, ask yourself—
- Has it worked before?
- Do the data and theory support the idea?
- Does the literature support the idea?
- Did the members of the intended audience tell you they thought it would work?
- Does the program's current status warrant such an activity?
Sample Goal: Increase the number of women screened for cervical cancer.
Measure of Success: Five thousand Pap tests will be performed this year, an increase of 1,000 over last year.
Objective: Within 12 months, through teaming with the local health department, the public education coordinator and outreach workers will recruit at least 500 women to enroll in cervical cancer screening in the tri-city area.
Sample activities are:
- Develop and pilot test public education activities or materials to be available at places of lottery ticket purchases.
- Provide training for peer recruitment at a local community-based organization that provides English as second language classes.
To assess whether these activities are appropriate given the case study, ask the following questions:
- Will the activities accomplish the objectives?
- Are they practical based on what you know about the program's resources and needs?
- Are they supported by data and theory?
- Are they appropriate for reaching the intended audience?
Given the limited amount of information in this case study, it is assumed that these activities would be appropriate. Remember, careful consideration of information from your program's data review and community analysis will help ensure your activities are appropriate for your program.
Keep in mind that the activity examples we are using are just samples. They could be part of a more comprehensive list of activities used to accomplish the objective.
The following exercise will help you determine appropriate activities for the case study example.
Instructions: A program goal statement, measure of success, and objective are identified. Choose the two most appropriate activities that would meet the stated objective.
Program Goal: Increase the number of women screened for cervical cancer.
Measure of Success: Perform 5,000 Pap tests for women aged 40 years and older this year, an increase of 1,000 over last year.
Objective 1: Through teaming with the local health department, the public education coordinator and outreach workers will recruit at least 500 women aged 40 years and older to enroll in cervical cancer screening in the tri-city area during this calendar year.
Activities: (Choose two of the activities appropriate for the goal, measure of success and objective.)
A) Develop and pilot test public education activities to be available at places of lottery ticket purchases.
B) Train health professionals about screening technology.
C) Partner with a community-based coalition to enroll women in after-service activities related to breast cancer awareness.
D) Provide training for peer recruitment at a local community-based organization that provides English as second language classes.
E) Identify local primary care physicians and provide them with brochures for their patients explaining the benefits of cervical cancer screening.
A—Correct! This is an appropriate activity.
B—Incorrect! As stated here, this activity does not explain clearly how training health professionals on screening technology will increase cervical cancer screening for women aged 40 years and older in the tri-city area.
C—Incorrect! This activity is related to breast cancer. The goal is to increase the number of women screened for cervical cancer.
D—Correct! This is an appropriate activity.
E—Incorrect! This may be an appropriate activity if data show that women aged 40 years and older in the community seek services routinely from their local physicians. If data do not show this, the activity may not be effective.
Next, we'll learn how to use data for planning.