Indicators can describe whether there is movement towards or away from a goal or standard.
A national workshop convened by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in December 2010 proposed a series of indicators with the purpose of ‘supporting the reporting of national breastfeeding trends, and thereby the evaluation of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015 and related policies and programs’. An evaluation of breastfeeding support services could usefully assess the extent to which the service was contributing to the improvement of breastfeeding rates, by monitoring these indicators and their change over time:
- proportion of children ever breastfed (for children aged 0-24 months)
- proportion of children breastfed at each month of age, 0-24 months
- proportion of children exclusively breastfed to each month of age, 0-6 months
- proportion of children predominantly breastfed to each month of age, 0-6 months
- proportion of children receiving soft/semi-solid/solid food at each month of age, 0-12 months
- proportion of children receiving non-human milk or formula at each month of age, 0-12 months (AIHW 2011).
Other indicators can also be important in an evaluation. For example, using qualitative methods, you can measure whether there are higher or lower rates of satisfaction with aspects of a service or the content of a training program, or identify aspects of the service which could be improved, by talking to service users and staff, and by comparing experiences or changes in perceptions over time.
It is important that indicators are clearly stated, and that they are related to the stated objectives of the program. The clearer the objectives, the easier it will be to identify indicators of achievement. For instance, your objective may be to increase the number of children exclusively breastfed to six months of age. Your indicator statement would then be the proportion of children who are exclusively breastfed to six months of age. Your indicator should always relate directly to your stated objective.