Performance Improvement 1997. Chapter I. Evaluation in the Department of Health and Human Services


The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to enhance the well-being and health of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering strong, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services. The following HHS agencies and offices accomplish this mission through their program activities:

  • Administration for Children and Families (ACF)
  • Administration on Aging (AoA)
  • Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR)
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA)
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
  • Indian Health Service (IHS)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Office of the Secretary
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), located in the Office of the Secretary, coordinates evaluation activities throughout HHS.

Evaluation plays an integral role in carrying out the HHS mission: assessing various aspects of program performance of the HHS agencies enables staff to identify ways to improve that performance. The HHS evaluation function has three goals:

  1. To provide information on HHS programs that helps government officials and members of Congress make decisions related to programs, policies, budgets, and strategic planning;
  2. To help HHS managers improve program operations and performance; and
  3. To disseminate evaluation results and methodological tools useful to the larger health and human services community of State and local health and human service officials, researchers, advocates, and practitioners for improving the performance of their programs.

This last goal is very important to HHS. Its various agencies have an important obligation to foster the development of new knowledge about the effectiveness of health and human services programs, interventions, and evaluation tools for use by the larger health and human services community. Although the findings and recommendations of HHS evaluations are usually first used by the Administration and the Congress, they can also be applied by others in the research and practice communities to improve the performance of programs at the State and community levels. The purpose of this report is to disseminate information about recent HHS evaluations and to make sure that the potential for wider application is realized.

This chapter describes the organization and operation of evaluation at HHS. It first provides an overview of the kind of evaluation activities supported by HHS agencies and then describes the resources and funding mechanisms used to support them. It details HHS evaluation management, including planning procedures, project management, quality assurance, dissemination of results, and effective uses of evaluation. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future directions for evaluation at HHS.