Opportunities and challenges in evaluating national public health programs delivered through regional service organisations

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

Local involvement in how programs are delivered and implemented is supported by many working in community development and increasingly seen as important in public health, particularly in preventive health programs. Yet there are challenges for national program evaluation when decisions on implementation are devolved. These tensions play out in determining: how to define, standardise and measure national objectives, what measures to use in evaluation and who is responsible for collecting and analysing the data.
In this seminar, I discuss some current research findings exploring the Australian Government’s ‘Tackling Indigenous Smoking’ program which aims to reduce smoking rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I am doing this research as an ANU student on ‘placement’ in the Department of Health and draw on this experience to enrich my insights. I have analysed national surveys and I am undertaking local research with two Aboriginal community controlled health services in an effort to better inform the program evaluation. The use of national survey data to accurately compare and contrast regional outcomes and in program attribution has significant limitations. This is despite the fact that regional program delivery has been an important mode of operation in Indigenous Affairs for many years. My research aims to contribute to a greater appreciation of the importance of regional program implementation in understanding what is working in Indigenous Affairs.


Alyson Wright is a current candidate in the ANU Master of Philosophy in Applied Epidemiology at National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health. Through her Masters placement, she occupies a desk at the Department of Health’s Indigenous Health Division. Prior to this she spent 12 years working in central Australia, including with the Central Land Council and the Centre for Appropriate Technology. She holds a BSc (Hons) from the ANU, completed in 2003.