The evaluation activities sponsored by PHS and described in this report assess program performance (efficiency, effectiveness, responsiveness); analyze results based on those assessments; and use the resulting information in policymaking and program management. These activities are diverse and include the full spectrum of evaluation methodologies developed over the last quarter century. The classification of PHS evaluation activities presented in figure 1 summarizes that diversity.
Range of PHS Evaluation Activities
A. Evaluation projects
- Outcome evaluations: assessing the immediate or intermediate effects of a program with respect to the stated goals or objectives.
- Impact evaluations: assessing the broader results, intended or unintended, of a program on populations or institutions involved.
- Implementation or process evaluations: assessing the nature of program inputs and outputs and their relationship to stated goals and objectives.
- Policy assessments: examining health policies with respect to their development, implementation, or impact on public health or program activity.
- Cost-benefit or cost-effectiveness analyses: developing methodology and its application to assess the relationship of program results to program costs (direct and indirect), often in comparison with alternative programs.
- Survey data analyses: evaluating the results of PHS programs or policies by conducting or analyzing data obtained from surveys.
- Management studies: examining the effectiveness or efficiency of the administration or operation of PHS programs and Offices.
- Evaluation syntheses: integrating the results from multiple independent evaluation studies within a defined program or policy area in a fashion that improves the accessibility and application of those results.
B. Methodology projects
- Evaluation feasibility studies: assessing the clarity and importance of program goals and objectives, the consensus of program stakeholders on the potential utility of evaluation information, and the availability of relevant performance data before committing to a full-scale program evaluation.
- Evaluation design projects: procuring assistance in the development of an evaluation design, measurement tools, or analytic models in preparation for fully implementing an evaluation.
- Instrument development projects: developing evaluation instruments (design, measurement, or analytic) for a specific PHS program or for general use by the public health community.
C. Evaluation support activities
- Evaluation technical assistance: providing assistance to PHS program managers or Office directors on any aspect of evaluation planning; project design, implementation, or analysis; or use of results.
- Evaluation dissemination: identifying target audiences and mechanisms to inform program constituencies and evaluation stakeholders about evaluation results.
- Evaluation training/conferences: maintaining the professional skills and expertise of evaluation staff through training and promoting the dissemination of PHS evaluations through conference symposiums.
PHS evaluation projects typically fall into a combination of these categories. For example, comprehensive PHS evaluations generally examine both process and outcome or impact. Knowing only whether goals and objectives are achieved is insufficient without also knowing how well the program was implemented and whether its goals and objectives were appropriate in the first place. Similarly, evaluation feasibility and design activities generally represent the crucial first phase of major PHS process and outcome/impact evaluations.