What is evaluation?
Why is it important in public health?
How can evaluation lead to improved health outcomes?

Evaluation and evidence-based practice are core to professional practice within the wider public health field. Practitioners in a range of sectors, including the voluntary sector, are increasingly being held to account for the success of projects and programmes of activity. Conducting evaluation can be challenging. Furthermore, the move to evidence-based practice demands that practitioners are able to critically interpret published evaluation findings.

Evaluation is a readily accessible examination of the key theories and principles underpinning approaches to evaluation. It offers a guide to how these principles can be implemented in practice and provides insights into dealing with some of the real-life challenges and complexities of evaluation, including:

  • Identifying indicators of success
  • Developing an evaluation plan
  • Ethical issues
  • Making the most of findings
This book is the first in a series on current theories and concepts for those working within the wider field of public health.


The current public health and social policy context is rapidly changing. Current policy initiatives resound with terms such as community engagement, social inclusion, equity, participation, empowerment and evidencebased practice. Responsibility for delivering the agenda ultimately resides with the public health workforce and puts pressure on practitioners to embrace new methods and ways of working. There is also unprecedented pressure to evaluate work and demonstrate achievement of targets.

Our experience of working with practitioners and those training for practice is that while they grasp the significance of many of these new ideas and ways of working, they often feel ill-prepared to translate the rhetoric into meaningful activity on the ground. This series of texts, Key Concepts for Public Health Practice, will take some of the most significant issues in the emerging wider public health agenda and attempt to 'unlock the maze'. Rather than providing a simple 'how to' guide, the series will offer clear, accessible explanations of the core principles and theory which readers will be able to apply across different contexts and for a range of purposes. Because nothing is as simple as it seems, it will also provide insights into dealing with some of the 'real-life' challenges and complexities of contemporary UK practice.

Each volume in the series will address a major contemporary issue. All the volumes will conform to a common format. Section A will provide an overview of relevant theory and will draw out key concepts and principles. Section B will demonstrate how these principles can be applied in practice using illustrative examples and case studies. Section C will provide an honest discussion of some of the thorny issues and dilemmas arising in 'real-life' practice.

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