What is program evaluation?
Evaluation: A systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using data to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of programs and, as importantly, to contribute to continuous program improvement.
Program: Any set of related activities undertaken to achieve an intended outcome; any organized public health action. At CDC, program is defined broadly to include policies; interventions; environmental, systems, and media initiatives; and other efforts. It also encompasses preparedness efforts as well as research, capacity, and infrastructure efforts.
At CDC, effective program evaluation is a systematic way to improve and account for public health actions.
- CDC has a deep and long-standing commitment to the use of data for decision making, as well as the responsibility to describe the outcomes achieved with its public health dollars.
- Strong program evaluation can help us identify our best investments as well as determine how to establish and sustain them as optimal practice.
- The goal is to increase the use of evaluation data for continuous program improvement Agency-wide.
“We have to have a healthy obsession with impact. To always be asking ourselves what is the real impact of our work on improving health?”
~ Dr. Frieden, January 21, 2014
What's the difference between evaluation,research, and monitoring?
- Evaluation: Purpose is to determine effectiveness of a specific program or model and understand why a program may or may not be working. Goal is to improve programs.
- Research: Purpose is theory testing and to produce generalizable knowledge. Goal is to contribute to knowledge base.
- Monitoring: Purpose is to track implementation progress through periodic data collection. Goal is to provide early indications of progress (or lack thereof).
- There are also similarities:
- Data collection methods and analyses are often similar between research and evaluation.
- Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) measure and assess performance to help improve performance and achieve results.
“Research seeks to prove, evaluation seeks to improve.”
~ Michael Quinn Patton, Founder and Director of Utilization-Focused Evaluation
“There’s a misconception that programs and evaluation are separate… evaluation is another term for good management of a program.”
~ Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, former CDC director (2009 to 2017)
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