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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2015 May-Jun;21 Suppl 3:S16-26. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000233.

Applying a mixed-methods evaluation to Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities.

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Prevention Research Center in St Louis, Brown School, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri (Dr Brownson); Division of Public Health Sciences and Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University School of Medicine, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri (Dr Brownson); and Transtria LLC, St Louis, Missouri (Ms Kemner and Dr Brennan).


From 2008 to 2014, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities (HKHC) national program funded 49 communities across the United States and Puerto Rico to implement healthy eating and active living policy, system, and environmental changes to support healthier communities for children and families, with special emphasis on reaching children at highest risk for obesity on the basis of race, ethnicity, income, or geographic location. Evaluators designed a mixed-methods evaluation to capture the complexity of the HKHC projects, understand implementation, and document perceived and actual impacts of these efforts. Eight complementary evaluation methods addressed 4 primary aims seeking to (1) coordinate data collection for the evaluation through the web-based project management system (HKHC Community Dashboard) and provide training and technical assistance for use of this system; (2) guide data collection and analysis through use of the Assessment and Evaluation Toolkit; (3) conduct a quantitative cross-site impact evaluation among a subset of community partnership sites; and (4) conduct a qualitative cross-site process and impact evaluation among all 49 community partnership sites. Evaluators identified successes and challenges in relation to the following methods: an online performance-monitoring HKHC Community Dashboard system, environmental audits, direct observations, individual and group interviews, partnership and community capacity surveys, group model building, photographs and videos, and secondary data sources (surveillance data and record review). Several themes emerged, including the value of systems approaches, the need for capacity building for evaluation, the value of focusing on upstream and downstream outcomes, and the importance of practical approaches for dissemination. The mixed-methods evaluation of HKHC advances evaluation science related to community-based efforts for addressing childhood obesity in complex community settings. The findings are likely to provide practice-relevant evidence for public health.

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