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Workplans: A Program Management Tool
Program Planning: Data

Data are pieces of information gathered for purposes of evaluation or to determine direction of the program. Data identified at this stage consist of information that can be used to determine success in reaching our goals and objectives. This information can be obtained in a variety of ways from a variety of sources.

Keep in mind that data should drive planning not only in the very beginning, but throughout the workplan development process.

Examples of data that could be used for evaluation purposes include—

  • Scores on training pre/post tests;
  • Minimum Data Elements (MDEs) regarding followup of abnormal findings; and
  • Themes from focus group analyses.

Data Sources

Data sources are simply places where data exist. Main data sources for BCCEDPs are—

  • Minimum Data Elements (MDEs)
  • Cancer registries (e.g., the National Program of Cancer Registries and the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results [SEER] Program)
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
  • Cancer Information Service (CIS)

These are examples of data obtained from information that is already collected and available.

After data sources are identified, you are ready to obtain the data. After data are gathered from these sources, you should determine what data are needed and develop a plan that includes:

  • Finding or creating data collection instruments to gather the specific data required;
  • Developing procedures for how the instruments will be used; and
  • Pretesting instruments before use.

Minimum Data Elements (MDEs)

The MDEs are a set of standardized data elements developed to ensure that consistent and complete information on screening location, patient demographic characteristics, screening results, diagnostic procedures, and treatment is collected on women screened or diagnosed with program funds. These data items are the minimum necessary for the BCCEDPs and CDC to manage the programs. Programs are encouraged to collect additional data for local program management purposes.

Cancer Registries

A cancer registry is a surveillance system that manages the collection, storage, analysis, and interpretation of data on persons with cancer, usually covering a hospital or group of hospitals. A population-based cancer registry collects data from many hospitals in a defined geographic area and can show incidence trends for cancer at different sites over time or among populations. Examples of cancer registries include the National Program of Cancer Registries (NPCR) and the Surveilliance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

BRFSS is a state-based surveillance system used to monitor changes in behavior-related risk factors such as smoking or screening behaviors. Data can be used for planning, program modifications, evaluation, and updating the workplan as appropriate.

Cancer Information Service (CIS)

The Cancer Information Service (CIS), a national information and education network, is a free public service of the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Other relevant data sources for BCCEDPs are—

Data Collection Methods

Always review data to which you already have access before collecting new data. This practice is time and cost efficient as well as helpful in focusing future data collection efforts.

When gaps are identified between the information the program has and the specific information needed, it may be necessary for a BCCEDP to collect its own data. For this purpose, there are two categories of data collection methods: quantitative and qualitative.

  • Quantitative approaches typically answer "how many." They gather what is known as "hard data": scores, ratings, or counts. This type of information can be collected by methods such as surveys and knowledge examinations. Typically, quantitative methods use standard measures, and data collected can be aggregated.
  • Qualitative approaches, on the other hand, are more open-ended and examine "why." They gather what is known as "soft data" and typically describe behavior using in-depth descriptions. This type of information can be collected by methods such as focus groups, case studies, and observations. Qualitative approaches are more descriptive, and the population studied is not statistically representative; therefore, data cannot be generalized to a larger population.

When designing this aspect of your workplan, include data collection methods that measure "how many" and "why" or "how well." This information is key to obtaining a complete picture of what is happening at a given point in time.

The choice of a data collection method may represent a trade-off between cost, response rate, time required to obtain the data, and other factors.

As you consider what data collection methods to use, it is helpful to keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is the data collection method feasible and not overly expensive? Is there a less time-consuming or less expensive way to collect this information?
  • Is this data collection necessary for program operations and/or evaluation?
  • Will the resulting data be credible to those outside the program who are likely to look at the information?
  • Are the resources and expertise available to analyze data correctly?
  • Has consideration been given to both qualitative and quantitative sources of information?

Next, we will return to our sample goal, measure of success, objectives, and activities developed in our workplan so far and select a data source and collection method.

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.


  1. Develop and pilot test public education activities to be available at places of lottery ticket purchases.
  2. Partner with a faith community coalition to enroll women in after-services activities.
  3. Provide training for peer recruitment at a local community-based organization that provides English as second language classes.

Data: MDEs

Activity evaluation with MDEs will involve—

  • Tracking who participates in the pilot tests of public education activities and comparing that to recruitment data to see if women enrolled as a result of the outreach activity. The next step is to determine if these enrolled women actually get screened.
  • Tracking who enrolls as a result of after-services activities and comparing that to screening data to see if the women enrolled through this outreach strategy actually get screened.
  • "Testing"* participants on their knowledge of peer recruitment after they complete the training. Next is tracking the number of women they enroll through their efforts at the local beauty salons and determining if the enrolled women actually get screened.

*Tests would cover a variety of topics, including basic breast and cervical cancer facts, knowledge about the BCCEDP, and communication skills. They will be conducted through a variety of methods, including verbal "quizzing" and role-play to demonstrate skills.

To assess whether these data are appropriate given the case study, ask the following questions:

  • Is this data collection necessary for program operations and/or evaluation?
  • Are these choices reasonable based on the goal, measures of success, objectives, and activities?
  • Will these data tell us what we want to know?

These data appear to meet all of the criteria and are appropriate given what we know from the case study.


Instructions: Read each statement carefully and choose the answer you believe to be correct.

Question 1. Data should drive planning throughout the workplan development process, as well as to evaluate the workplan's success in meeting its goals and objectives.


Question 2. Quantitative data collection always is considered more reliable than qualitative data collection because quantitative data collection allows you to acquire "hard data" while qualitative data collection only allows you to acquire "soft data."


Question 3. Before obtaining any data, the program manager should determine data required to manage and to evaluate the program's success.


Question 4. SEER, BRFSS, and NPCR are examples of cancer registries.


Question 5. Tracking of media coverage, training materials, and data from previous projects are all examples of relevant data sources that can be used by BCCEDPs when searching for data to support their current projects.


Next, we'll learn how to develop a time frame for achieving goals and assessing progress.


Previous Page: Activities Next Page: Time Frame

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