Performance Improvement 1995. Chapter I. The Evaluation Program in the Public Health Service


The Evaluation Program in the Public Health Service

The mission of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) is to protect and improve the mental and physical health of the American people and to close the gaps in the health status of disadvantaged populations through a variety of activities aimed at health policy development, research, public health practice, personal health services, regulation, infrastructure development, information dissemination, education, and training. Accomplishing this mission is the task of the eight Agencies that make up PHS: the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), the Indian Health Service (IHS), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) is charged with program, policy, budget, and legislative coordination for the activities of these Agencies.

The PHS Evaluation Program plays an integral role in carrying out the PHS mission by reviewing various aspects of program performance of the PHS Agencies and OASH and by identifying means of improving that performance. The three major goals of the Evaluation Program are--

  • To provide information on PHS programs that helps high-level government officials and Members of Congress make decisions related to policy, budget, and strategic planning;

  • To help PHS managers examine the effectiveness and efficiency of program operations and thus improve performance; and

  • To disseminate PHS evaluations--study results and methodological tools--that are useful to the larger public health community of State and local health officials, researchers, advocates, and practitioners.

These goals parallel the major audiences for PHS evaluations: (1) government decisionmakers, (2) PHS program managers, and (3) the larger public health community. For the first two groups, PHS uses ongoing program evaluation as both a philosophy and a tool to support informed decisionmaking that affects the health of the Nation. The PHS Agencies and OASH assess and provide technically reliable information on the extent to which these efforts achieve their desired results. This information is the primary tool that PHS uses to improve program performance on an ongoing basis.

For nongovernmental stakeholders, PHS has an important obligation to foster the development of (1) new knowledge about the effectiveness of public health programs and interventions and (2) evaluation tools for use by the larger public health community. The 1988 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, "The Future of Public Health," stressed the Federal Government's important responsibility to support knowledge development and dissemination through data gathering, research, and information exchange. Evaluations conducted by PHS play a significant role in fulfilling this responsibility.

This chapter describes the PHS Evaluation Program. It provides an overview of the kinds of evaluation activities supported by the program and then describes one of the funding sources that PHS Agencies and OASH use to support these evaluations. It details PHS evaluation policies and management, including planning procedures, quality assurance, dissemination mechanisms, and use of results. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future directions for the program.

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