In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Program Evaluation in American Health Education

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies

Public Health Program Evaluation in American Health Education
James F. McKenzie, Teresa T. Kern
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 August 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0133


The roots of formal health education in America can be traced back to the mid-19th century with the advent of school hygiene education. As the discipline of health education matured, it moved beyond schools, and early in the 20th century the need for health education spread into the public health arena. Yet “health education” as it is known today only dates back about eighty years, with the greatest progress in the field occurring after 1980. In the 1970s, the term “health promotion” began to be used more frequently, and when defined, it, in part, included the concepts embedded in health education. Even with the differences in the definitions, many core concepts are shared by the terms, and thus much that is written about them often overlaps. Therefore, many of the sources cited here use both terms. As health education matured, so did its evaluation. Early evaluation of health education focused primarily on measurement of facts. From there, evaluation focused on description of outcomes labeled as objectives, and from there it focused on judging programs against some external standard. It is only recently that evaluation has focused on stakeholder involvement in determining what programs are effective. Part of the maturation of program evaluation can be attributed to an increased emphasis on accountability. As such, the knowledge and skills needed to carry out program evaluation have become more important to those conducting such evaluations. Program evaluation, also referred to as applied research, is not easy to perform and can be politically charged. It is conducted for two primary reasons: to determine the quality of the program, and to determine the worth of the program. The type of program evaluation to be completed depends on its purpose. There are two primary classifications: (1) formative and summative evaluation, and (2) process, impact, and outcome evaluation. Formative evaluation includes those evaluative processes that take place prior to or during the implementation of a program in an effort to improve it. Summative evaluation includes those processes that take place after implementation in order to determine the program’s worth. Process evaluation includes activities during the implementation designed to maintain or improve the quality of the program. Impact evaluation includes the processes that take place after implementation in order to determine the immediate effects of the program. Outcome evaluation includes processes that take place after implementation to determine the long-term results of the program. Together, impact and outcome evaluation are equivalent to summative evaluation. An effective program evaluation produces evidence that permits those overseeing health education programs to make better decisions about current and future programming.

Introductory Works

A number of different authors have put forward works that provide the basic principles and components of program evaluation. These introductory works have been divided into two subsections: (1) sources that provide a comprehensive but general presentation of Program Evaluation and (2) sources that provide a more focused presentation of Program Evaluation in Health Education.

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