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Policy evaluation

The last stage of the policy development process is policy evaluation. It is the view of many scholars that policy evaluation helps to determine policy success.

Defining policy evaluation

David Nachmias (1979) defined policy evaluation as:

…the objective, systematic, empirical examination of the effects ongoing policies and public programs have on their targets in terms of the goals they are meant to achieve.

While many analysts often seek to determine whether a policy has been a success or failure during the evaluation process, it’s important to note that this is often highly subjective. Policy success or failure may mean different things to different people. Consequently, for some, a policy may be successful while others may consider the same policy to be a failure.

What is important in the evaluation process

Perhaps what’s important in the evaluation process is not the determination of policy success or failure, rather the identification areas of strength and improvement. That is, the concept of health policy evaluation should be seen in the context of a feedback loop that is inherently designed to inform policy implementation and from which operational lessons can be drawn.

Health policy evaluation applies principles of evaluation used to examine the impact of a policy. Evaluation is an activity that helps one to understand the merits, demerits and potential of a particular health policy. The figure below shows the processes involved in monitoring and evaluation.

Inputs leading to processes/activities leading to outputs, effects and impact. Outputs, effects and impact are all grouped under the heading 'Results/Outcomes'. Inputs, processes/activities and outputs fall under the remit of monitoring. Effects and impact fall under the remit of evaluation

(Adapted from Intrahealth n.d.)

Click to expand

Following policy implementation, performance should be monitored to assess the changes that follow. Policy evaluation is often accompanied by policy monitoring, which involves the tracking of data to measure progress towards achieving policy objectives. Evaluation, on the other hand, involves the collection and analysis of the data collated during the monitoring process. Both of these activities are important in determining if a policy met its set objectives.

To guide the policy monitoring and evaluation stages, a systematic process ought to be undertaken which would serve as a framework to measure policy success. Various evaluation tools exist within the wider literature that guides the policy evaluation process.

Your task

Would you recommend having the same team undertake policy implementation and evaluation or having different teams undertake the activities?

Having reflected on this question, discuss your views in the comments area below.

Further reading

Blank, R., Burau, V., & Kuhlmann, E. (2017). Comparative Health Policy. Macmillan International Higher Education

Buse, K., Mays, N., & Walt, G. (2012). Making Health Policy. McGraw-Hill Education. https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1r06c36/COV_ALMA2149697580002011

Lee, K., Buse, K., & Fustukian, S. (eds.). (2002). Health policy in a globalising world. Cambridge University Press. https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/permalink/f/1r06c36/COV_ALMA5145021680002011


Intrahealth. (n.d.). Optimizing Performance and Quality: Stage 7. https://www.intrahealth.org/opq/stages/stage-7/

Nachmias, D. (1979). Public Policy Evaluation. St. Martin’s Press

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This article is from the free online course:

Policy Formulation and Analysis in Healthcare

Coventry University