|Nutrition education for the public. Discussion papers of the FAO Expert Consultation (Rome, Italy, 18-22 September 1995) - FAO Food and Nutrition Paper 62 - (1997)|
|Evaluation of nutrition education programmes: Implications for programme planners and evaluators|
To identify one specific skill profile for nutrition evaluators would be impossible. Nutrition is a field which is cross- or inter-disciplinary in nature. Similarly, evaluation is a cross-disciplinary undertaking, where borrowing of methodologies from many disciplines has been extensive. Evaluation is not a profession, at least in terms of the criteria that are often used to characterise nutritionists, physicians, sociologists, agronomists and other groups. Evaluators use a range of approaches, such as large-scale, randomised field experiments, time-series analysis, qualitative field methods, quantitative cross-sectional studies, rapid appraisal methods, focused group discussions, and participant observation. The role definition of an evaluator in general terms is therefore blurred and fuzzy (Rossi & Freeman, 1993).
Clearly it is impossible for every person involved in evaluating nutrition education of the public to be a scholar in all relevant sciences and disciplines, and to be an expert in every methodological procedure. In evaluation of nutrition education programmes, it is therefore important to be open to hiring consultants who are experts in methods the evaluators themselves cannot cover.
Instead of attempting to make an extensive list of the skills needed, we can consider some examples linked to the various types of evaluation discussed above.
An evaluator has an important role in assessing the correctness of problem identification (context evaluation). Skills are therefore needed in diagnostic procedures for defining the nature, size, and distribution of the nutrition problem. This may include analysis of existing data to assess or provide a baseline, rapid appraisals, qualitative needs assessment, forecasting needs, estimating nutrition parameters, estimating nutrition/disease-risk behaviours, and assessing the selection of targets (incidence/prevalence measurements, identification of population at risk, etc.). Several of these skills are also relevant in process and outcome evaluation. Furthermore, skills are also needed in using indicators to identify trends, measure programme coverage, identify effects and impact, assess biases and confounding factors, and disseminate evaluation results to various stakeholders.