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Aims and objectives

Step looking at the concept of aims and objectives, the purpose of SMART objectives, and the links between activities, objectives, and targets.
SPEAKER: Welcome. By the end of this presentation, you should be able to –assess the concepts of aims and objectives and planning, and –understand the purpose of smart objectives. You should also be able to understand the links between activities, objectives, and targets.
In steps 1 and 2 of the planning cycle, planners identify gaps in current service provision, using situation and SWOT analyses. In this presentation, we look at step 3, where planners go on to use this information to convert options into a plan of action to improve eye care services.
Priorities for action vary from district to district. It is also important to remember to balance demand and supply when prioritising actions. So for example, before planning to increase demand for cataract services, planners must check whether services will be able to cope with the increase and vice versa.
Why are aims and objectives important? They provide a direction and a focus for change. They also provide a justification and a way to measure the plan being undertaken.
An aim is a short, general statement of the purpose of the plan. It explains why a project is needed. Aims make big statements like, “The aim is to send a man to Mars,” or, “The aim is to reduce blindness from diabetic retinopathy.” Objectives identify the practical, specific, time-bound actions that need to be completed to achieve an aim. Each objective needs to be smart. And this means it must be specific, with a target that has a focus; measurable, so that planners can check actions are being completed. All actions should be achievable to attain the target, and they should be relevant to the aim of the plan. And finally, all actions should be completed within a defined time frame.
For example, the Zrenya District eye care programme sets an aim to eliminate childhood blindness from Vitamin A deficiency in the district. A key objective of the plan is to have 100% coverage of Vitamin A supplementation for six months to five-year-old children at all maternal and child health clinics in the district by 2016. When we look at this objective, we can see that it is specific about who will receive supplementation and where they will be. It also has a clear target of covering 100% of maternal and child health clinics. It is measurable. An indicator can be used to measure how many clinics are carrying out the supplementation. The objective is also achievable with the budget and health staff available.
Lastly, we can see that the objective is very relevant for the project aim. And it has a defined time frame of completion by 2016. So we can agree that this is a good objective.
Let’s look at another example. A project aims to provide online courses and public health for eye care. One objective is to teach every user how to use a computer before they start the course. When we look at this objective, we can see that it is specific in its action to teach computer skills to every user. It is measurable, but it will be difficult to assess every user’s computer skills in an online setting. It is not really achievable, as the users will be in different locations, and they will have different access to computers. And it is not really relevant either, as the aim of the project is not to teach computer skills, but public health for eye care.
Finally, the objective is not time-bound, as it is not clear how long the objective will take to achieve. This is, therefore, not a good objective.
A target is the level of change that should be achieved in each objective over the agreed period of time. Target setting needs to be carefully considered. For example, the number of cataract surgeries per surgeon in a hospital is 200 per year, at present. The plan is to reach a target of 400 per year by 2018. How did the planner set this target? Firstly, they examined the reasons why the present output is low. Then, they searched for guidance from national and regional plans on the expected targets for cataract surgery rates. And finally, they considered the balance between supply of, and demand for, services in their population.
In conclusion, once gaps in current eye care services have been identified in the initial stages of the planning cycle, the direction for change can be selected and this is stated as the aim. To achieve the aim, detailed and smart objectives need to be put in place. The aim and objectives of a plan provide the direction and the formula for change. Setting targets for change has to be based on national or global guidance and on the realistic possibilities at the local level.

In this step we look at the concept of aims and objectives, the purpose of SMART objectives, and the links between activities, objectives, and targets.

Once we’ve completed steps 1 and 2 of the planning cycle and identified gaps in current service provision using situation and SWOT analyses, we can use the information to progress to step 3, where we can begin to consider the key changes that are possible and required to improve the existing eye care services. Setting aims and objectives is a key part of this: they provide direction and a focus for change. They also provide justification for the required actions and a means of measurement.

Think about the difference between an aim and objectives. SMART objectives can be difficult to write; why do you think this is?

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Global Blindness: Planning and Managing Eye Care Services

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