Public Health

Advocacy Evaluation: Challenges and Emerging Trends

September 6, 2012  • Michael C. Fagen, Ehren Reed, Robert Medina, Brad L. Neiger & David Devlin-Foltz

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Devising, promoting, and implementing changes in policies and regulations are important components of population-level health promotion. Whether advocating for changes in school meal nutrition standards or restrictions on secondhand smoke, policy change can create environments conducive to healthier choices. Such policy changes often result from complex advocacy efforts that do not lend themselves to traditional evaluation approaches. In a challenging fiscal environment, allocating scarce resources to policy advocacy may be particularly difficult. A well-designed evaluation that moves beyond inventorying advocacy activities can help make the case for funding advocacy and policy change efforts. Although it is one thing to catalog meetings held, position papers drafted, and pamphlets distributed, it is quite another to demonstrate that these outputs resulted in useful policy change outcomes. This is where the emerging field of advocacy evaluation fits in by assessing (among other things) strategic learning, capacity building, and community organizing. Published in the journal Health Promotion Practice, this article highlights several challenges advocacy evaluators are currently facing and provides new resources for addressing them.