Methodological Tips for Overcoming Formative Evaluation Challenges: The Case of the Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease Program

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Abstract

Formative evaluation is an effective first step in guiding program improvement by identifying participant preferences and yielding information pertinent to making program decisions. As program evaluators working with service providers are increasingly encouraged to adopt evidence-based health promotion programs, a discrete set of real-world recommendations may help extend the use of this methodology to respond to community-specific contexts and improve health impact. This article describes the authors’ step-by-step process of conducting a formative evaluation of the Arthritis Foundation Walk With Ease (WWE) program. Data collection targets (leaders, coordinators, and participants in the original program and leaders and participants in the revised piloted program) as well as methods (written surveys, focus groups, structured telephone interviews, and expert reviews) were triangulated. The authors describe the challenges they faced and conclude with practical methodological recommendations about managing time and resources, communications with respondents, and accountability systems for organizing triangulated data.

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