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IHS uses evaluation to understand how well programs are working and identify reasons for meeting or not meeting established goals. Evaluation allows programs to be more accountable, validate outcomes, improve program effectiveness, and can guide policy decisions. A variety of evaluation approaches are used to understand program operations and make informed judgements about program management. Whether performing an evaluation on processes, impacts, or outcomes, relying on the overarching agency mission and the populations served is central to effective evaluation planning.
The definition of evaluation can vary depending on the environment. IHS is guided by law and industry standards in how we apply principles of evaluation. The law defines program evaluation as:
"an assessment, through objective measurement and systematic analysis, of the manner and extent to which Federal programs achieve intended objectives."
31 USC 1115(h)(12)
Industry definitions provide more specific and detailed definitions of evaluation:
"A program evaluation is a systematic study using objective measures to analyze how well a program is working." U.S. Government Accountability Office, Program Evaluation: Strategies for Assessing How Information Dissemination Contributes to Agency Goals, GAO-02-923 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 30, 2002), p. 6.
Evaluation is defined as "periodic assessment of the relevance, performance, efficiency and impact (both expected and unexpected) of the project in relation to stated objectives."
Fort, Martinez, & Mukhopadhyay, 2001, p. 1
Program evaluation is the "systematic collection of information about the activities, characteristics, and outcomes of programs to make judgments about the program, improve program effectiveness, and/or inform decisions about future programming."
Patton, 1997, p. 28
Why is evaluation important?
The GPRA Modernization Act of 2010 (PL 111-352) requires quarterly performance assessments of Federal programs to assess agency performance and improvement. The law specifically calls for strategic plans with "a description of the program evaluations used in establishing or revising general goals and objectives, with a schedule for future program evaluations to be conducted."
3 USC 306(a)(8)
Evaluations can be used to address complex questions that arise in activities designed to achieve our mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of AI/ANs to the highest level. A well designed and conducted evaluation can provide valuable information for program managers and help to improve accountability and performance. Evaluations designed to uncover the "why" a program met or did not meet established goals helps in managing program activities and informs strategic decision-making.