Public Health Assessment & Program Evaluation

 Program Evaluation and its Role in Evidence-Based Public Health

Last Updated: August 06, 2018
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Program evaluation, and outcome evaluation in particular, adds to the evidence base of Army Public Health.

An evidence-based public health program, policy, or initiative is one for which the majority of available evidence (for example, program evaluation and research findings) suggests that it results in positive outcomes.  The Army Public Health Center recommends implementing evidence-based public health programs, policies, and initiatives whenever possible because they are most likely to result in positive health outcomes.

Systematic Reviews are one means by which evidence-based programs, policies, or initiatives are identified. 

Systematic Reviews examine the quality, quantity, and consistency of the scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of programs, policies, or initiatives. 

Many organizations focus on conducting systematic reviews to continually examine the best available evidence of public health activities. Some examples include:

  • The Cochrane Database of Systematic ReviewsExternal Link

    The Cochrane Library publishes systematic reviews related to a wide variety of public health topics including injury prevention, nutrition labeling, tobacco reduction, obesity prevention, the use of social media in health promotion and more. Technical as well as plain language summaries are available for many systematic reviews and reviews are available by topicExternal Link.

  • The Guide to Community Preventive ServicesExternal Link(The Community Guide)

    The Guide to Community Preventive Services (also known as "The Community Guide") is a collection of evidence-based findings of the Community Preventive Services Task Force. It is a resource to help communities select interventions to improve health and prevent disease. Community guide reviews answer three questions:

    - What has worked for others and how well?
    - What might the intervention cost and what is likely to be achieved through the investment?
    - What are the evidence gaps?

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  • The Clearinghouse for Military Family ReadinessExternal Link (Pennsylvania State University) 

    The Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness is an applied research center designed to help military communities identify, implement, evaluate and improve programs to strengthen military service members and families. The Clearinghouse has reviewed currently available evidence for more than 1,000 community-based and school-based programsExternal Link and rates them as ineffective, unclear, promising, or evidence-based. These include programs specifically implemented within the military as well as non-military programs that could be implemented in a military setting. Fact sheets summarizing the available evidence for each program are publicly available.

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For information on how to conduct a systematic review, visit:

Where a systematic review has not been conducted or there is insufficient existing scientific evidence to conduct a systematic review, the evidence base can be developed through program evaluation studies that use well-accepted program evaluation methods (to include non-experimental, quasi-experimental, and experimental designs). 

Programs improve and thrive as they grow in evidence along a continuum from Unsupported (that is, cannot produce evidence of a relationship between program services and program outcomes; sufficient data are not available) to evidenced-based (that is, endorsed by a systematic review). Click here to see the current Army continuum of evidence-based public health practice.

All Army PH programs, policies, and initiatives should demonstrate a commitment to establishing, measuring, and growing their evidence base over time.  This requires a variety of evaluation studies and methods conducted in various settings and with various populations.  If initial program evaluation studies reveal evidence of program, policy, or initiative effectiveness, further evaluation studies strive to enhance scientific rigor of and confidence in findings through improvements in methods that minimize threats to internal and external validity of evaluation findings.

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