Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Adapting Evaluations of Governmental Public Health and Behavioral Health Programs During Covid-19 by Lisa Bowers

Hello! I’m Lisa Bowers, MS, Research Specialist at the University of Nebraska Public Policy Center. Our center is an outreach and research unit working with local, state and federal agencies to provide consultation, coordination, and evaluation in a variety of areas. I primarily work on projects in public health and behavioral health for the State of Nebraska. I’m excited to reflect with you all through the AEA365 blog posts.

Due to Covid-19, public health and behavioral health programs funded by government agencies have adjusted goals, objectives, activities and outcome measures. As these programs rapidly pivot to accommodate clients during the pandemic, evaluators have also been required to quickly adapt processes.

Many of our program evaluations began prior to the onset of Covid-19. These included evaluation of 1) Garrett Lee Smith (GLS) Suicide Prevention programs, 2) Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC), and 3) County mental health and substance use diversion courts. Below are lessons learned in evaluation amidst uncertainties created by the pandemic.

 Lessons Learned:

  • Listen to Stakeholders
    • Engage with stakeholders to understand program changes taking place and how they will impact process and outcome data. This AEA365 blog post from Barbara Klugman has some great tips for doing this in a virtual space.
  • Review and Revise/Recreate the Evaluation Plan
    • All areas of the evaluation plan may be affected by Covid-19. Reexamine the purpose and design of the evaluation, context and environmental factors, program activities, data collection and reporting plans.
  • Evaluation Management
    • Between performance assessments, update evaluation management records with notes from stakeholders and continuously link this with the evaluation plan.
  • Enhance Constructive and Encouraging Feedback
    • Burnout has regularly been prevalent among healthcare workers and the pandemic has increased work-related stress on frontline workers. Be cognizant that findings and communication are sensitive to and note the unprecedented changes created by Covid-19.

These bullets are a brief summary of lessons learned and do not capture the many indistinguishable forces at play as we acclimate to new practices developed out of Covid-19. We would love to hear any hot tips, lessons learned or rad resources you might have that relate. Please share some in the comment section below.

Rad Resource: The National Center for Educational Assessment provides resources and aligns the Program Evaluation Standards (PES) with major social disruptions – like Covid-19: https://www.nciea.org/blog/interim-assessment/program-evaluations-under-covid-19


The American Evaluation Association is hosting Gov’t Eval TIG Week with our colleagues in the Government Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our Gov’t Eval TIG members. 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@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Gov’t Eval TIG Week: Adapting Evaluations of Governmental Public Health and Behavioral Health Programs During Covid-19 by Lisa Bowers”

  1. Hello Lisa,
    I never thought about how much something like Covid could affect things like policymaking and developing programs. They are such necessary things too, and the demand from people in need has grown from this as well. Hopefully, with time, there is somehow a way to learn from this situation and navigating through it better.

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