Active Living by Design and Its Evaluation

Contributions to Science

Community-based or practice-based interventions and their evaluations often prove difficult to generalize from one setting to another. This article suggests, however, that evaluations of these programs still contribute to the science of evaluation, using lessons from the Active Living by Design (ALbD) evaluation. 

This article underscores the difficulties of evaluating unstandardized, changing, community-directed, slow moving changes that many community-based participation interventions present. As opposed to researcher-driven interventions, these community-based or practice-based interventions and their evaluations often prove difficult to generalize from one setting to another; communities are different. This article suggests, however, that evaluations of these programs still contribute to the science of evaluation.

Using lessons from the ALbD evaluation, the authors articulate three lessons from the multiple methods approach used for the program’s evaluation:

  1. Compared to previous models, the systematic and well-described methods quantifying the community coalitions, intervention goals, and environmental and policy changes are improvements over previous measures.
  2. The description of specific changes in the 5P intervention areas (preparation, promotion, program, policy influence, and physical projects) provides hypotheses for future studies to examine.
  3. Expanded evaluations of two communities, Somerville, Mass. and Columbia, Mo., provide models for natural experiment evaluations.

The authors argue that practice-based evaluation is timely, and answers are needed to solve difficult health and health care issues. Using opportunities to evaluate development, applications, and effects will contribute to the larger field of evidence-based practice.

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