Public Health Planning Process

Public Health Planning Process

This flowchart demonstrates the cyclical nature of public health program planning. The chart also shows that the stages of the planning and evaluation processes are interconnected.

Public Health Planning Health program planning begins with the basic awareness of a public health need—a need that can be addressed by some sort of intervention program. This phase may be revisited after a needs assessment has been conducted. By revisiting this stage, program planners may clarify the priorities for the intended program.

Establish Priorities Health program planners may have a general sense of the priorities for a public health plan before conducting a formal needs assessment. However, those priorities may change, based on the results of the needs assessment.

Needs Assessment

The first formal step in the program planning process is to conduct a needs assessment.

This will determine whether there is a need that can be met by a public health program. The assessment may help to clarify the priorities for the program. The assessment can also identify assets within a community that may be used to help implement the program.

Problem Statement When the needs assessment is complete, the program planners must create a concise statement of the public health problem. This statement is the foundation of any intervention program. The problem statement answer the

“why?” question: Why do we need this program?

Program Planning & Design This planning of any intervention program begins with a statement of the problem. The program must address the problem that has been identified by the planners. If the program is an ongoing program, then plans may be revisited after the first program evaluations have been completed.

Program Theory

If the problem statement answers the “why?” question, then the program theory answers the “what?” question: What type of intervention is most appropriate in order to achieve the desired result?

Program Implementation

Program implementation addresses the “how?” question: How is the public health intervention to be delivered? The “how?” question is also linked to such day-to-day functions of the program as:

• How do we fund the program?

• How many staff members are necessary?

Budgets must be developed and funds must be spent. Also, the public health professionals who are running the program must respond to any information about the process that they receive.

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Process Evaluation

Once the program has begun, the public health professionals who are running the program begin to evaluate the day-to-day functions of the program:

• Is the intervention reaching its target audience?

• Are the funds being spent properly?

The answers to these types of questions are the process findings.

Process Findings As the program is running, data about the process is collected. These process findings are assessed by the public health professionals who are running the program. They use the process findings to make adjustments to the program during the implementation phase.

Program Planning & Design There are many strategic issues associated with program planning. Health professionals must identify the right target populations for an intervention, yet they must be sensitive about the way in which they state the needs for an intervention. If a key population is ignored, or community sensitivities are not considered, a health program might face significant opposition before it is implemented.

Program Implementation

In the program implementation phase, strategic issues include communication with key stakeholders and effective management of resources. For instance, imagine a health program that targeted residents of a county town in Southern California. Suppose that details of the program were communicated via public service announcements

(PSAs) on the radio. If those PSAs were only recorded in English, then it’s likely that many members of the community would not hear the message, and the program would reach fewer intended recipients.

Public Health Outcome

Evaluating participant outcomes is a strategic challenge because participant outcomes for any public health program must be communicated to key stakeholders. For instance, a key stakeholder for any health program is always the funding organization. If participant outcomes are not communicated effectively, funding for the program could be reduced or eliminated.

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