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Jan Losby and Alberta Mirambeau on Tips to Remember When It Comes to Measuring Reach and Impact

Jan Losby and Alberta Mirambeau are members of the Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Team in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In a climate of limited resources, we recognize that public health programs may not be able to evaluate every aspect of their work. We encourage programs to consider measuring reach and impact as one way of demonstrating results. We view reach as the extent to which a program attracts its intended audience and impact as the effect that interventions have on people, organizations, or systems to influence health.*

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when measuring reach:

Hot Tip #1 – Consider the unit of analysis. Reach can be expressed at different levels — people, organizations, communities, etc. — and based on the scope of the intervention.

Hot Tip #2 – Calculate a proportion. Reach is calculated using a simple formula.  The numerator (top number) represents the actual number served. The denominator (bottom number) represents the potential number served.

Hot Tip #3 – Think about geographic area. As your intervention grows, so may your reach. Your focus may move from specific counties or regions to an entire state.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when measuring impact:

Hot Tip #4 – Make it meaningful. Impact is concrete, relevant to stakeholders, and speaks to the value of your program.

Hot Tip #5 – Make it measureable. Impact expresses how the intervention helps achieve public health goals. Since public health goals, such as reduction in morbidity and mortality, take time to occur, you may want to consider measuring impact in terms of more short-term change.

By measuring reach and impact, program administrators are better positioned to monitor the progress of their interventions, showcase results, and maintain accountability.  Lastly, measuring reach and impact helps to communicate the benefits (or lack thereof) of a program. 

Rad Resources:

Basia B, Toober D, Glasgow RE. Program Planning: Overview and Applications. National Council on Aging & Center for Healthy Aging.
Jillcott S, Ammerman A, Sommers J, Glasgow RE. Applying the RE-AIM framework to assess the public health impact of policy change. Ann Behav Med. 2007 Oct; 34(2):105–14. 

*Based on the work of Basia et al. and Jillcott et al.

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