The goal of the Indian Health Service (IHS) is to assure that comprehensive, culturally acceptable, personal and public health services are 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, 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 evaluation needs of the IHS service programs are coordinated using two major types of short-term studies: policy assessments and program evaluations. The IHS policy assessments contribute to decision making about budget, legislation, and program modifications and include background information to support the Agency’s initiatives. Evaluations are focused at the program level, or Area Offices, and focus on specific program needs.
Each year IHS 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.