CDC Week: User-Friendly, Accessible Guidance–Framework Checklists by Tom Chapel

My name is Tom Chapel, and I’m CDC’s Chief Evaluation Officer. CDC’s Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health is the source document for how our programs and funded partners conduct evaluations. The Framework was first published as a scientific article–it wasn’t intended to be user-friendly guidance. Over time, we’ve created resources that are more accessible to non-technical audiences.

The original article included a simple graphic describing the steps in the evaluation process and the standards by which we judge the quality of an evaluation. We’ve found that the graphic on its own provides a useful reminder of the full evaluation cycle and what we’re striving for: utility, feasibility, propriety, and accuracy. But CDC programs and funded partners needed more substantive guidance to know how to conduct evaluations that would provide truly useful information to decision makers.

To respond to that need, one of the first resources we created was our Self-Study Guide. It provided practical guidance for implementing an evaluation based on the Framework’s steps and standards. When working under a tight deadline, though, even a concise manual can be more information than a program can use. As a first step in updating our guide, we decided to extract key teaching points and turn them into stand-alone checklists for each Framework step.

Checklists are increasingly popular tools throughout health, public health, and evaluation, serving both as guidance for practice, and, as importantly, as a final check to ensure no major step has been left undone. While our checklists can be used to guide all steps of an evaluation, they were written intentionally to help evaluators who need guidance on a specific step. We recently completed three of the six checklists and are now disseminating them.

Rad Resources:

  • We know many of the aea365 readers constitute a technical audience when it comes to evaluation, so we’re happy to share the original Framework article, which appeared in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Review. We’re quite proud that the work has stood the test of time.
  • The Self-Study Guide distills information from the article and is particularly helpful to novice evaluators. While the availability of academic programs in evaluation is on the rise, many CDC staff get training in public health or some of the social sciences, so tools like the Self-Study Guide are important. Check back for an updated version soon.

Hot Tips:

  • Feel free to share our checklists with your evaluation clients and other stakeholders. The checklists are an at-a-glance description of the processes stakeholders should expect to encounter and can help them be more active participants in the evaluation.
  • If you decide to make your own checklists, consider making each one a stand-alone resource. Evaluation is a sequential process, but many users just need help with one step. And it’s useful to break down the sequence into its many components. The tradeoff in length is worth ensuring that users don’t get lost in the middle of the process or miss something important. Simple graphics, templates, and worksheets are also useful.

Disclaimer: The opinions and reflections expressed in this blog post are those of the author. The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the CDC Framework for Program Evaluation in Public Health, where authors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer some history, lessons learned, resources, and thoughts about applied evaluation. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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