The first step in improving the health and well-being of any population is getting to know their needs and wants. Humans have a basic set of needs starting with our physiological needs such as for food, and advancing to more complex psychological needs, such as a sense of belonging. Before you can improve the health of your people, you first need to understand the current gap between where they are and where they would like to be. A comprehensive needs assessment should be tailored for a group but may include health risk assessments, health screenings, demographic screenings, fitness assessments, focus groups, surveys, and individual interviews.
After gaining a sense of where your people are and where they would like to be we can start to establish a plan for how to get them there. Planning any health related program should start with an honest look at the programs budget, goals, timeline, and what will constitute success. Often a process of needs prioritizing also happens, because as much as we would like to address every problem at the same time, this is simply unrealistic.
This is the fun part! If you have put in the effort during needs assessment and planning, now you get to set the wheels in motion. Although, this is often the most enjoyed part of a program by many people, it is important not to jump in without having gone through appropriate planning. The last thing we want to do is implement a poorly planned program that wastes resources and has the potential to harm rather than help your people.
Evaluation actually starts the moment you start looking at the needs of your people, and should continue through the entirety of all stages of any health program. Our needs assessment is an evaluation of our population. During our planning phase we identify goals, and determine an appropriate evaluation plan to determine success, and during implementation we should be conducting process evaluation to determine if we are implementing the program effectively and as planned. If you aren’t implementing as planned, how do you know if your program was effective or if any changes were due to outside influence? Likewise, if you are implementing as planned and your watching for unintended consequences, you can adjust to account for these.
In addition to the importance of ongoing evaluation, conducting a formal evaluation periodically is also important. Many goals of health programs are long term, and t measuring progress toward those goals at varying intervals allows us to improve our processes as we go.
When you conduct formal evaluations of programs, it helps you determine if a program is still best serving the needs of your people. If it continues to fill a need or move the group towards goals, the program should be maintained. If not, maybe those resources would be better allocated elsewhere. The decision to maintain, adapt, or dissolve a program should be based on sound evaluation principles.
Want to discuss how to achieve better outcomes for your people and your bottom line. Let’s talk!