BACKGROUND: Evaluation of the potential effectiveness of a programme's objectives (health or otherwise) is important in demonstrating how programmes work. However, evaluations are expensive and can focus on unrealistic outcomes not grounded in strong theory, especially where there is pressure to show effectiveness. The aim of this research was to demonstrate that the evaluability assessment (a cost-effective pre-evaluation tool that primarily gives quick, constructive feedback) can be used to help develop programme and outcome objectives to improve programmes while they run and to assist in producing more effective evaluations. This was done using the example of a community development programme aiming to improve health and reduce health inequalities in its target population.
METHODS: The setting was Glasgow, Scotland, UK and focused on the Health Issues in the Community programme. Data were collected from documents and nine individual stakeholder interviews. Thematic analysis and a realist approach were used to analyse both datasets and, in conjunction with a workshop with stakeholders, produce a logic model of the programme theory and related evaluation options to explore further.
RESULTS: Five main themes emerged from the analysis: History; Framework; Structure and Delivery of the Course; Theory of Action; and Barriers to Delivery and Successful Outcomes. These themes aided in drafting the logic model which revealed they key programme activities (e.g. facilitating group learning) and 23 potential outcomes. The majority of these outcomes (16) were deemed to be short-term outcomes (more easily measured within the timeframe of an individual being involved in the programme) e.g. increased self-esteem or awareness of individual/community health. The remaining 6 outcomes were deemed longer-term and included outcomes such as increased social capital and individual mental health and wellbeing.
CONCLUSIONS: We have shown that the evaluability assessment tool can be applied to the evaluation of community health programmes, providing short- and long-term outcomes that could be evaluated to demonstrate effectiveness and avoid unnecessary or poorly designed full-scale evaluations. This type of pre-evaluation method is already a useful resource for national policy evaluations, but could be a valuable evaluation tool for other regional or community health programmes.
- Journal Article