Understanding how public health programs are evaluated is an important component of a successful public health career.

Every community experiences threats to public health and safety, from disease to sanitation to air and water quality. That’s where public health professionals come in. All over the world, government and non-governmental organizations put together public health programs designed to prevent disease and address health concerns and crises. Public health programs can improve quality of life and even make the difference between life and death. But how do we know if they’re really working?

One of the keys to managing public health programs is to evaluate the programs’ effectiveness. We can’t know if a program is working or if it’s falling short unless we take a serious look at its performance. One of the best ways to do this is to use the evaluative system recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.* Here’s an overview of how such an evaluation should work.

What Types of Public Health Programs Should Be Evaluated?

The answer is: all of them. And there are a lot of different kinds of public health programs. The most common include:

  • Research and investigations
  • Public health education
  • Community and professional training
  • Problem and crisis monitoring
  • Direct health services
  • Infrastructure construction
  • Policy development
  • Code compliance monitoring

What Are the Steps to a Good Evaluation?

  1. Engage Stakeholders: No evaluation can be effective unless all those involved in the program participate. Stakeholders include those running the program, any organization providing assistance/resources to the program, and those served by the program.
  2. Describe the Program: Everyone has to agree on what the program is designed to do. Lay out its objectives as well as the full process of reaching those objectives.
  3. Focus the Evaluation: Decide what you’re specifically evaluating. This should be determined by what’s most important to the stakeholders. Results? Budget? Resources? Any one aspect needs its own evaluation.
  4. Gather Evidence: Engage in fact-finding. This can include gathering data on effectiveness, expenditures, time frames, etc., as well as taking statements from those involved in the program. Give special attention to ensuring all evidence is credible.
  5. Justify Conclusions: Use the evidence gathered to perform an evaluation within the agreed-upon framework developed in steps 2 and 3. Fully justify any conclusions you draw. This means sticking to the values and standards of the stakeholders, properly using analysis/synthesis, applying professional interpretation, using sound judgement, and providing recommendations based on the conclusion.
  6. Share and Apply Lessons Learned: Many evaluations will lead to recommendations for improvement/change. Ensure those recommendations are shared and appropriately applied. This is often a time-consuming step as any program change must go through the full development process of design, preparation, feedback, follow-up, and dissemination. After a set amount of time, you should re-evaluate the program to ensure the changes are working as desired.

How Can You Learn More About Public Health?

If you’re looking to begin or advance your public health career, there are a number of public health degrees you can earn. If you do not yet possess a bachelor’s degree, you can enroll in a BS in Public Health program. If you already have a Bachelor of Science—and particularly if you were a public health major—you can take the next step and earn your Master of Public Health (MPH) degree.

Both of these public health degree programs can put you in an excellent position to start your career in public health, or advance in your current public health career. You can earn either a bachelor’s in public health or a master’s in public health through an online university. This means, you can complete your bachelor’s or MPH program in a convenient and flexible format designed for busy professionals. In fact, online learning can allow you to continue working full time while you earn your degree.

A lot goes into public health, from research to program development to the necessary step of program evaluation. If you want to be a leader in this important field, an online bachelor’s or master’s of public health degree program can put you on the path to success.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online BS in Public Health and Master of Public Health (MPH) degree programs. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, A Framework for Program Evaluation, on the Internet at www.cdc.gov/eval/framework.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, 1-800-621-7440, www.hlcommission.org.

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