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Demonstrating Your Program's Worth: A Primer on Evaluation for Programs to Prevent Unintentional Injury.
  1. Alison Young
  1. Community Child Health, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

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    By N J Thompson and H O McClintock. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Atlanta, Georgia, 1998. No ISBN, obtainable free of charge from CDC Publications web site.

    This book comes with a comment form so that readers can evaluate its worth. I found this a very useful starting point when reviewing the text and would encourage everyone else to use it too. As a researcher and practitioner who has had experience of evaluating injury prevention programmes, I was interested to see what this United States text has to offer, and how applicable it is to the UK.

    The purpose of the book is to help those working in injury prevention understand (1) why evaluation is worth the resources and effort involved, (2) how evaluation is conducted, and (3) how to incorporate evaluation into programmes.

    The book is divided into three main sections as outlined above. Section one is brief but covers important issues such as why evaluate, what components go into good evaluation, who should conduct evaluations and what type of information evaluation will provide. In general the content of this section is good, however is not always easy to follow as it often refers to pages further on in the book. The least useful element of this section (for me) is the part that looks at “choosing the evaluator”. I believe most people reading this book will be doing so because they themselves will be carrying out an evaluation, or teaching others how to evaluate—not hiring an evaluation consultant.

    Section two describes each of the four stages of evaluation: formative, process, impact, and outcome and discusses the most appropriate time to carry out each stage. There is a wealth of valuable, important, and relevant information in this section, particularly the comprehensive descriptions of each of the stages of evaluation. It is ideal as a reminder, and for anyone who is not clear about different types of evaluation and why each method is appropriate at different stages of a programme.

    The methods for conducting evaluation that will help any reader carry out simple evaluation are dealt with in section three. Again, this section contains comprehensive and valuable information on various qualitative and quantitative methods that could be used to evaluate programmes. It is also encouraging to see that both the qualitative and quantitative methods are given equal importance. The quality of the information in this section is well balanced and is perhaps most appropriate for personnel who are not that familiar with evaluation methods. Any more detail would deter a beginner from ever evaluating anything! Once again I find myself wondering about the relevance of including information on how to communicate with, hire, and supervise evaluation consultants. This may be more relevant to a US situation but have less application in other cultural contexts.

    The appendices contain basic samples of “questions to ask, events to observe, and who or what to count” during evaluation, with the ideas included being based on injury prevention programmes the CDC currently fund. Although most injury prevention programmes world wide would most likely fit into one of their 12 categories, I feel that this is not appropriate for an international audience. Appendix C contains a comprehensive and well structured checklist of tasks that can be used for reference. Appendix E, the glossary, is absolutely essential for anyone starting out in the evaluation of unintentional injury prevention programmes, and appendix D contains a basic bibliography.

    On the whole I think this is a good resource for practitioners in the field of injury prevention. I do feel, however, that the book tries to cater for too wide an audience—for those with little or no experience of evaluation, to those who will use it as a teaching tool. The quality of the information presented ranges from being very useful and relevant, to extremely basic and perhaps a little condescending to the reader. Despite these criticisms I would definitely recommend this book to practitioners for personal reference. I would suggest, however, it would be best used as a teaching resource for injury prevention coordinators who are training others in programme evaluation.