Evaluation is the systematic collection, analysis and reporting of information about health education activities. Evaluating means finding out how well you are doing in your health education work in your community, and making a judgment about your achievements. It is a critical assessment of the good and bad points of your health education interventions, and how they could be improved. Evaluation is the process of assessing whether your specified objectives have been achieved, in other words how successful you have been.
How do you know how well you are doing – or whether there are areas in which you should improve? It is always important to make an assessment about how you are getting on in the course of your work. Evaluation simply means looking at your performance in health education activities in a more structured way. For example, if one of your objectives was 'to increase the number of households who use bed nets properly from 30% to 50% within 6 months', but when an evaluation is completed you find that after 6 months, only 35% of households were using bed nets properly, then you have achieved only part of your objective (Figure 16.2). You had planned to increase the uptake by 20%, however, you have increased it by only 5%. This might indicate that there is something wrong in the way you have planned or implemented your health education activities. For example, the method you have used might not be appropriate or the message you have disseminated may not be the most effective. Using evaluation, you should be able to look into the process you have used and identify the strengths and the weaknesses, before possibly taking corrective measures.
Pause for a moment and think of your day-to-day activities. You are already assessing your efforts without necessarily calling it 'evaluation'. You assess the value and impact of your work all the time. For example, if you achieved a low score during an exam you would ask yourself what went wrong. You may consider changing your studying style and attempt to improve your score for the next time.
In evaluation, you judge your achievement and then use those judgments to improve your activity.