Promising practices in evaluation may differ depending on the type of program implemented. For example, programs
that have collected personal data on patients or participants should have secure data collection plans to
protect that information. One of the best ways to identify specific issues with evaluations is to confer with
other communities who implemented similar programs about specific challenges that they encountered.
Data security: It is incredibly important to keep data that is collected safe from loss or
misuse. A breach of data security could damage the quality of the study and violate study participants’
rights. For example, information collected in substance abuse program evaluations regarding mental health is
particularly personal and sensitive. The program evaluator is responsible for ensuring that all data
collected is protected. For more information about evaluating substance abuse programs, see the Rural Prevention and Treatment
of Substance Use Disorders Toolkit.
Permission forms: Programs working with children under the age of 18 will need to secure
permission from a parent or guardian. Children are a special, protected population. The program should be
explicit about the data that will be collected from or the service that will be provided to children so that
guardians can assess potential risks. Securing permission from parents early in program implementation will
help facilitate the evaluation process. For an example, see the Oral Health School-Based Model.
Cyclical nature of long-term behavior change: Many community health programs target
long-term behavior change. Given that evaluations typically occur at a specific point in time, it may not be
feasible to record long-term outcomes. Instead, it may be more feasible for the evaluation to measure
changes in short-term outcomes. In addition, behavior change typically occurs in stages, and individuals may
experience set-backs before experiencing long-term lasting changes. This is a particular challenge when
evaluating wellness programs or obesity prevention programs. For example, see Evaluation Challenges for Rural Obesity