MISSION: The mission of the Indian Health Service, in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native people, is to raise their physical, mental, social, and spiritual health to the highest level.
The goal of the Indian Health Service (IHS) is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable, personal and public health services are available and accessible to American Indian and Alaska Native people. The importance of evaluation in supporting this goal has increased significantly in recent years and includes American Indians and Alaska Natives as the primary stakeholders in defining the purpose, design, and execution of evaluations. The stakeholders use the end product of the evaluations, and are typically the population or groups most likely to be affected by the evaluation findings. The IHS has formally adopted the principles of a responsive evaluation practice to address the needs and concerns of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The evaluation program of the IHS is managed by the Office of Public Health, Staff Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Research (OPH-SOPER), which provides national leadership and consultation for IHS and Area Offices on strategic and tactical planning, program evaluation and assessment, public health and medical services, research agendas, and special public health initiatives for the Agency. The OPH-SOPER serves as the principal advisory office on issues of national health policy and coordinates the following four evaluation functions.
- Health Program Evaluations - Collect and analyze information useful for assisting IHS officials in determining the need for improving existing programs or creating new programs to address health needs.
- Policy Analysis - Conduct analyses when a change in the IHS health service delivery system must be considered, when issues emerge in an area where no policy currently exists, or when current policies are perceived as inappropriate or ineffective.
- Health Services Research - Undertake analyses of the organization, financing, administration, effects, and other aspects of the IHS delivery of health services.
- Special Studies and Initiatives - Conduct studies and prepare special reports required by Congress in response to pending legislation or policies, often using a roundtable, whenever an issue or a health problem requires immediate action and it is unclear what type of action should be taken.
The evaluation needs of the IHS service components are coordinated by OPH-SOPER using two major types of short-term studies: policy assessments and program evaluation studies. The IHS policy assessments contribute to decision making about budget, legislation, and program modifications and include background information to support the Agency's initiatives. Evaluation studies are focused at the program level, or Area Offices, and focus on specific program needs.
Each year OPH-SOPER selects high-priority health care and management studies for funding through the submission of proposals to headquarters and Area Offices. These proposals are reviewed and rated by a panel of subject-matter experts, evaluation experts, and IHS staff for concurrence with IHS strategic goals, objectives, and priority areas. The proposals are then prioritized and forwarded to the IHS Director, who reviews the projects that are recommended for funding and determines the respective funding levels.