Lynda Bergsma, SORH Program Director at the Arizona State Office of Rural Health (SORH), believes that rural programs must learn to prove their worth, especially in today’s funding climate. “Many people in health and public health are starting to understand that they will no longer get money to fund programs for which they cannot show specific impacts and outcomes,” Bergsma explained. “There’s no way of knowing if a program is effective without evaluating it.”
Yet, Bergsma said, “when people like me from academic institutions try to help these wonderful, well-meaning rural health folks understand how to do program evaluation, we often make it so complex and overwhelming that we just confuse them, and they give up before they start.” She gave an example of a university researcher, who visited a county cooperative extension office to explain program evaluation, but many staffers said afterwards that they were more confused than when they started; one staffer was so overwhelmed she was in tears.
The answer, according to Bergsma, is logic models. “Folks leading health and public health programs in rural areas do not need research skills—they need simple, basic evaluation skills,” she said. “They really need a basic logic model to guide them through good program planning, implementation, and evaluation.” (She points to the Kellogg Logic Model Development Guide as a good introduction the subject.) “A logic model will tell them how to measure their project outcomes and impact,” she continued. “It can be applied to all situations. There should be a logic model for every program, whether it is designed to change community, organization or individual behavior.”
To help in that effort, the AZ SORH hosted a webinar in March on “How to Develop Logic Models for a Strong Program Evaluation,” the second in a series of webinars on project funding opportunities. The webinar was the beginning of what Bergsma hopes will be a new and continuing interest in logic models. In addition, the AZ SORH will provide some ongoing technical assistance to those who have participated in the webinar. Although it has been geared for an Arizona audience, Bergsma said that anyone could view the webinar (click here) and use the takeaway for logic models.
Other SORHs who are interested in learning about how to use logic models or provide technical assistance on logic models and evaluation should contact Bergsma at 520-626-2401 or firstname.lastname@example.org