1.7 Evaluate Your Program
In this Section
How do you know if your program works?
If it isn’t written, it’s as if it didn’t happen. When you keep track of everything you do in your program, you can show others what you’ve done.
“Making sure it works” means making sure that your program meets the needs of both the people in your program and your organization. One way you know this is through an evaluation.
“Evaluation” may make you feel nervous or overwhelmed. It does not have to be that way. It is really just a way for you to find out
- How the program activities are playing out (the process),
- Whether the program is useful to people in your program (the quality),
- Whether they like it (satisfaction), and
- Whether it has made a difference in their lives (the impact).
You want to start planning your evaluation during the program-planning phase. This means that you should
When collecting information about people, you must protect their privacy. See Health Information Privacy from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Figure out what you want to measure (e.g., how much people improve their knowledge about heart disease risk factors),
- Prepare tools to measure results (e.g., surveys, interview questions), and
- Check with your organization’s leaders to find out what permission you will need to collect data from the people in your program. For example, some organizations are required to go through their Institutional Review Board.
- Decide how you want to use the evaluation results to strengthen your program.
- Develop strategies to get the participants to complete the evaluation tools.
Set up your heart health evaluation by going through these steps:
- Refer to Session 12 in the manuals: Use Evaluation to Track Your Progress
- Develop your own heart health evaluation tools
- Learn to use evaluation data to share information about your program
Examples from the Field
“Washington Beech’s Healthiest Winner Program now includes in its weekly evaluation a weigh in, blood pressure reading, and a food diary. Participants seem very excited about seeing their physical health progress.” —Bernadette Murphy, Lead Case Manager with Housing Opportunities Unlimited in Boston
Develop Your Own Heart Health Evaluation Tools
“I’ve come across a number of instances that if we don’t have the evaluation data or surveys completed, before and after the program, then we won’t really know the complete truth and be able to tell the story about what we really did and if it made a difference.” —Daphne Ferdinand, President and Executive Director, Healthy Heart Community Prevention Project, Inc. in New Orleans
You can create your own evaluation tools based on the following:
- The objectives listed at the beginning of each session, such as:
- Know about how the heart works and its importance;
- Understand the benefits of calling emergency medical services;
- Learn the steps to lower blood cholesterol levels; and
- Learn to plan and prepare traditional meals in a heart healthy way.
- Objectives are specific actions that you want to complete. They can also be ideas that you want people to learn. Example objectives include:
- At least 80% of participants will identify five foods that are low in cholesterol.
- At least 80% of participants will participate twice a week in a walking group.
- Objectives that you develop.
For more information about writing objectives, visit SMART Objectives.
Learn to Use Evaluation Data to Share Information About Your Program
“Through successful demonstration of outcomes this data can be used to apply for grant funding to assist in the sustainability of the program.” —Diane Phillips, Director of Telenutrition Program, Native American Cardiology Telenutrition Program
Use the data you gather to show off your program. For example, you can use data to
- Tell your organization and funders what you have done,
- Help change the way people think about heart health in the community,
- Show that your program makes a difference and is sustainable,
- Attract new people to your program, and
- Get more funding and other support.
Funders, leaders at your organization, and community members like to see actual examples of how your program helped someone. They like to see that what you have done improved lives. Also, sharing results with your partners helps to ensure their continued support.
You can develop a fact sheet that shows what your program has done to promote heart health. You can also read about the success of programs that have used our heart health manuals. This can give you an idea of what types of information help describe what “success” means to your program.