1.1 What do I need to know ?“I only work in this role 15 hours a week, so I’m very time poor, but it’s important for me to find out directly from people about their needs and how they feel about the service because you might think you know what the issues are and what people want but you might not…our service evaluation resulted in the Maternal Child Health Service opening on a Saturday morning.” (maternal health nurse)
The purpose of evaluation is to find out how well a program or activity is working. Ideally, evaluation will also identify ways to improve what, or how, people are doing what they do.
There are many resources to help service providers evaluate their services. Some are designed specifically for breastfeeding services, and others are designed to help health services more generally to look at what they do. (We’ve provided a list of some of these resources in section 6 of this toolkit.)
This toolkit is designed to help breastfeeding services to evaluate their own programs, by bringing together in one place the basic ideas and tools for evaluation. We know that many services are already doing evaluations, and others would like to start but can’t find the time or the people to do that in the midst of busy schedules. We hope this resource will make it a little easier to get started.
The toolkit has been developed as part of the Australian Government’s action under the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015. Evaluation of breastfeeding programs may also assist service providers to identify how the activities and outcomes of particular programs align with and support jurisdictional and national goals and objectives. The goals of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 are listed later in this toolkit. These goals, and information on the broader policy context, can be found in Appendix A.
1.2 Who is this toolkit for ?This toolkit was designed for breastfeeding practitioners, breastfeeding program managers, and other staff working within a breastfeeding support service. While we recognise the importance of monitoring and evaluation at the national level, and at jurisdictional levels, this toolkit aims to assist people who are delivering breastfeeding support services to develop evaluations of their own services. The intention of this resource is to encourage regular data collection and analysis within services, which over time can help build a picture of what is happening in services all over Australia, and also help inform further improvements to services, if needed.
1.3 What’s insideThe toolkit is structured in roughly the same order as the steps you would take in an evaluation:
- Why evaluate? – finding the questions to ask
- Getting started – planning an evaluation
- Tools of the trade – which methods, when, how and who
- Making sense of it all – reflection and analysis
- Sharing the good (or otherwise) news – what to do with your findings when you have them
- Finding help – some resources to assist.