central to identifying and disseminating effective initiatives—whether they are national or local programs, large- or small-scale efforts.
The committee uses the term evaluation to represent the systematic assessment of the quality and effectiveness of a policy, program, or initiative. It is an effort to determine whether and how an intervention has important and consequential outcomes. Many types of evaluations can contribute to the knowledge base by identifying promising practices and helping to establish causal relationships between interventions and various outcomes. Evaluation can also enhance our understanding of the intrinsic quality of the intervention and of the critical context where factors can moderate or mediate an intervention’s effect in particular ways. The committee emphasizes that program evaluations of varying scope and size, at all levels and within and across all sectors, play a vital role in addressing the childhood obesity epidemic. Evaluation fosters collective learning, supports accountability and responsibility, reduces uncertainty, guides improvements and innovations in policies and programs, determines cost-effectiveness, and helps to leverage change in society.
Evaluations are conducted for multiple stakeholders and the findings broadly shared and disseminated. These audiences include policy makers, funders, and other elected and appointed decision makers; program developers and administrators; program managers and staff; and program participants, their families, and communities. Moreover, these diverse evaluation audiences tend to value evaluation for different reasons. The committee emphasizes the need for a collective commitment to evaluation by those responsible for funding, planning, implementing, and monitoring childhood obesity prevention efforts.
Although resources are limited, evaluation should be incorporated as an essential component of the program planning and implementation process rather than as an optional activity. Government agencies, foundations, and other funders of childhood obesity programs and interventions should incorporate evaluation requirements, as is current practice by many agencies and organizations. Similarly, program planners and those who implement policy changes should view evaluation as an integral part of their efforts. If something is valuable enough to invest time, energy, and resources, then it is also worthy of the investment necessary to carefully document the success of the effort.
All childhood obesity prevention policies and interventions deserve some type of evaluation. Evaluations can range in scope and complexity from comparisons of pre- and post-intervention counts of the number of