Applying the Systematic Screening and Assessment Method to Childhood Obesity Prevention

The Systematic Screening and Assessment (SSA) Method was applied to the Early Assessment of Programs and Policies to Prevent Childhood Obesity project, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This project began in 2007 as a 2-year initiative to assess which of the many programs and policies addressing childhood obesity are most promising and would have a payoff for further investigation.

Rigorous evaluation and research studies are costly and time-consuming, and they would be prohibitively expensive if conducted for each and every promising program or policy. In order to guide investments in evaluation and research, this project employed a unique approach to identifying a large volume of promising programs and policies. These were then subjected to several screening procedures to ensure that only those that met stringent criteria were selected. The criteria were that: there be potential for impact; they were plausible to reach a large portion of the population; and they were feasible and transportable.

Over a 2-year period the project examined 458 such innovations; 48 of these were studied further, and 20 (4.4%) were highly promising, in terms of likelihood of producing large population effects and being ready for evaluation.