Performance Improvement 1998. Chapter I. Evaluation in the Department of Health and HumanServices


The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to enhance the health and well-being 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 goal through their program activities and performance evaluations.

  • 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 agency program performance allows staff to identify means of improving that performance. The HHS evaluation function has three goals: (1) to provide information on HHS programs that helps government officials and members of the 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 officials, researchers, advocates, and practitioners for improving the performance of their programs. This last goal is very important to HHS. Its agencies have an important obligation to foster the development of new knowledge about the effectiveness of health and human services programs and 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 program performance 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 kinds of evaluation activities supported by HHS agencies and then describes the resources and funding mechanisms used to support them. The Chapter details HHS evaluation management, including planning procedures, project management, quality assurance, and dissemination of results. The Chapter concludes with a discussion of effective uses of HHS evaluations, with illustrations from projects completed in the past year.