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A Framework for Program Evaluation

The Evaluation Framework’s steps include: Engaging stakeholders; Describing the program; Focusing the evaluation design; Gathering credible evidence; Justifying conclusions; Ensuring use and sharing lessons learned. The Evaluation Standards are organized into the following four groups: Utility; Feasibility; Propriety; and Accuracy.

Effective program evaluation is a systematic way to improve and account for public health actions. Evaluation involves procedures that are useful, feasible, ethical, and accurate.

A practical, non-prescriptive tool, the evaluation framework summarizes and organizes the steps and standards for effective program evaluation.

See the original 1999 MMWR article, Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health for more about how the framework was developed.

Or, click on the following for more details:


The term "program" is used in the framework to describe any organized public health action. Programs can include, among others:

  • Direct service interventions
  • Community mobilization efforts
  • Research initiatives
  • Surveillance systems
  • Policy development activities
  • Outbreak investigations
  • Laboratory diagnostics
  • Communication campaigns
  • Infrastructure building projects
  • Training and education services
  • Administrative systems


Evaluation is the systematic investigation of the merit, worth or significance of an object (Scriven, 1999), hence assigning “value” to a program’s efforts means addressing those three inter-related domains:

  • Merit (or quality)
  • Worth (or value, i.e., cost-effectiveness)
  • Significance (or importance)

A strong evaluation approach ensures that the following questions will be addressed as part of the evaluation so that the value of program efforts can be determined and judgments about value can be made on the basis of evidence:

  • What will be evaluated? (i.e., what is "the program" and in what context does it exist?)
  • What aspects of the program will be considered when judging program performance?
  • What standards (i.e., type or level of performance) must be reached for the program to be considered successful?
  • What evidence will be used to indicate how the program has performed?
  • What conclusions regarding program performance are justified by comparing the available evidence to the selected standards?
  • How will the lessons learned from the inquiry be used to improve public health effectiveness?

CDC’s evaluation framework provides a systematic way to approach and answer these questions using a set of 6 steps and 4 standards.

See the Evaluation Steps and Standards.

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Contact Evaluation Program

Tom Chapel, Chief Evaluation Officer