Before you begin any new program, consider the entirety of the program, including:
- the needs of the individuals you plan to serve
- the type of intervention that would address those needs
- what it would look like if you were to successfully address that need
With these three things in mind during the planning phase, you will be able to develop an evaluation plan that can help guide you from establishing a new program or initiative through final evaluation.
Planning begins from the moment you think about establishing a new program. A well thought out plan will be helpful in program execution as well as while recruiting participants, creating promotional materials, soliciting donors and evaluating programmatic success. The following information will help you understand how to identify an appropriate need to address and the steps for creating an evaluation plan for your program. The evaluation plan will guide your program or project by tracking the short-term and long-term objectives. It will also help identify the resources needed and the activities necessary to make the project a success. It will help you reach your stated outcomes.
Before you can establish the specifics of a new program you must define a need. To do this you should consider the following steps:
1. Conduct a needs assessment. A needs assessment is a systematic review of the existing capacity and needs for a given group. It asks what does this group have and what do they need? This review should take into account scientific and other published data and written reports. It should include information garnered from community members that will demonstrate gaps between current situations and more desirable outcomes. It can be hard to differentiate between the actual and perceived needs of a community. A needs assessment is a great way to get a less biased look at what programs or services are most needed and have the greatest potential for success. To begin, review the following existing data:
- The demographics and cancer burden of your community. Review the following sources for more information:
- The needs of cancer survivors and the gaps in services nationwide.
- In order to get a true picture of the needs of the people you serve, you may want to augment this data with as assessment of your own. Your community needs assessment can include a review of the following reports and materials:
2. Establish an evidence base. While planning your program, it is important to consider the base of evidence that supports the program design. The term evidence-based is commonly misunderstood. If you are asked to demonstrate that your program is evidence-based, be prepared to describe how you know that your program will be effective or provide examples of similar models that have been successful. Your response should answer the following questions:
- What pre-existing programmatic model is it based on?
- Are you drawing from a valid or reliable theory of health behavior for your intervention?
- Is your idea based on a program, model or theory that has been shown to be effective at accomplishing your desired outcome?
You should be able to describe why you selected your program design based on the proven impact, effectiveness and efficiency of other similar programs. You will note that this is very different than defining the need for your program. In that case you would be demonstrating the gap or need that exists within a certain population that will be fulfilled by your program. There may be data to support why your program is needed in that certain population however your evidence-base will describe why your specific program will be effective in filling that gap or serving that community.
- Review theories and models: There are many theories that explain health related behaviors and the steps people go through when trying to change behaviors. If you are truly doing something new and innovative you will still want to use theories and models in program development.
- Common theories often used in public health are:
- Review other evidence-based programs to support the need for your program:
- Review your existing data: Data you have gathered from existing programs can also be helpful in designing your new program. Review your existing data to determine the evidence-base for the program you are developing.
- Do you have research on the effectiveness of a similar program you have developed?
- Have the strategies you are proposing been shown to be effective in other population groups or settings?
Needs Assessment Template