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Rural Health Information Hub

Evaluation Considerations for Specific Issues

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 Programs.