Program Planning and Evaluation

Chris Lovato

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:
Program Planning and Evaluation


At the most basic level, program planning is a process that is designed to address questions such as “What is needed?” and “How will the needs be addressed?” Through a systematic process the answers to these questions form the basis of an intervention approach. Program evaluation focuses on addressing whether the intervention is working. Evaluation includes questions related to how and if a program is working as it was intended and if there are any unintended consequences. With a new intervention, program planning is obviously the initial mandate, but over the life of the program, planning and evaluation are both part of an ongoing cycle of continuous improvement and renewal. The methods and approaches used in program planning and evaluation occur throughout the lifecycle of a program—from planning and implementing to assessing outcomes. Typically, the program planning cycle begins with the needs assessment process (see Oxford Bibliographies article titled Needs Assessment), progresses to identifying strategies to address needs, and then moves into implementation and evaluation that occurs in a continuous cycle, which facilitates ongoing review of needs and program improvement. In practice, the process and methods used in needs assessment and program planning are the same for evaluation; for example, connecting with stakeholders, developing a program description, specifying a target process and outcomes, identifying or developing measures, designing and collecting data, and disseminating results. Generally speaking, the roles and competencies of program planners overlap with those of evaluators. In the past, some authors have addressed program planning and evaluation separately; however, they are highly interrelated. When a clear program plan is not in place, it is difficult and often impossible to conduct a credible evaluation, and over the long-term evaluation will include program planning as the program is improved or modified to meet evolving needs. Because the types of questions addressed in program planning and evaluation are relevant to a broad array of disciplines including education, business, health, and the social sciences there are a range of perspectives and resources available on the topic. Whether planning or evaluating, the practitioner applies theory, research findings, and the most rigorous methods possible to a real-world setting to address practical questions relevant to stakeholders including funders, those who benefit from a program, or others who have some connection or interest in the problem being addressed. The methods applied seek to apply the logic of science in settings that cannot be controlled and are often highly political in nature. Thus, program planning and evaluation are as much art as science; they are part of an ongoing cycle of development, improvement, and adaptation in public health programs.

Article.  4471 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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