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Program planning should begin with assessment of current community conditions

This is an excerpt from Promoting Physical Activity-2nd Edition by Centers for Disease Control.

Program Planning

As you are planning, create an approach that will account for who is going to do what, when, where, and how (and for how much money). Following are questions to consider as you plan your program (see sidebar). These questions will help you conceptualize your program, foresee barriers, and keep your overall goals in mind.

Carefully conducted program planning begins much before a work plan can be developed—it begins with an assessment of current conditions. This is referred to as a formative assessment. Formative assessment is a process designed to enhance understanding of the target audience's characteristics, attitudes, beliefs, values, behaviors, determinants, benefits, and barriers to behavior change to inform a strategy for interventions and programs. It is the “precede” of the precede-proceed model, that is, the diagnosis of social, epidemiological, behavioral, environmental, educational, organizational, and administrative and policy factors (Green & Krueter, 1992), similar to the market research involved in social marketing (Andreasen, 1995).

At a minimum, the formative assessment will include a look at needs and resources in a community. In gathering these data, consider questioning several people and using a variety of methods (DHHS, 2002):

  • People
  • Organizational and agency staff
  • Physical activity program staff
  • Community leaders
  • Funding officials
  • General public

There are various ways to collect data:

  • From surveys
  • Face-to-face
  • Telephone
  • E-mail
  • Postal mail
  • From interviews (structured or unstructured)
  • Face to face
  • Telephone
  • Public forums
  • Focus groups
  • From documents
  • Grant proposals
  • Newsletters
  • Press releases
  • Administrative records
  • Current or previous intervention attendance lists
  • From existing data
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
  • Youth Risk Behavioral System (YRBS)
  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
  • National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)
  • Crime reports
  • Other public domain research-based surveys
  • Directories
  • From observations
  • Direct observations of behavior or a physical environment
  • Indirect observations (e.g., video camera or infrared light counters)

Based on the findings of the formative assessment, you are ready to begin thinking about your program. It is best to work with a group of people who are interested in the issue to plan the program and its evaluation. These are referred to as stakeholders, and they fall into four main categories (DHHS, 2002):

  1. Implementers: those who implement, manage operations, and evaluate the program
  2. Partners: those who support overall program goals and efforts to implement and evaluate the program
  3. Participants: those who will be affected by the program
  4. Decision makers: those with decision-making power over the program

It's important to begin by working with stakeholders to determine a vision and mission, which will help articulate a foundation and direction for your program and its evaluation.

Vision and Mission

As commonly defined in strategic planning, a vision is a guiding image of success or an ideal condition; for example, “Our vision is people of all ages being active in an activity-friendly community.” A mission is a statement of general purpose; it communicates your essence: “Our coalition's mission is to promote physical activity to all levels of the community.”

Next, you can work with stakeholders to determine the goals and objectives. These should be consistent with the vision and the mission. Take some time to carefully consider and construct objectives because these will be the keys to conducting the evaluation.

Goals and Objectives

A goal is a broad statement of purpose. For example, “Our goal is to increase the physical activity level of community members by making more physical activity opportunities accessible to all.”

An objective describes results expected to be reached. Objectives are most useful when they are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (DHHS, 2002).

  • Specific: who (target population) and what (action or activity)
  • Measurable: how much change is expected
  • Achievable: realistic given current resources and constraints
  • Relevant: within the scope of the program purposes
  • Time-bound: when the objective will be met

For example, “One of our objectives is to expand the physical activity offerings of the Parks and Recreation Department by 50% by December 2011.” Evaluation planning can actually precede program planning. In other words, you may know, or want to know, what questions to answer before you know what program or intervention will be implemented.

Once the vision, mission, goals, and objectives are established, it is time to start thinking about strategies to reach your goals and objectives. In conjunction with considering the activities that will be conducted, consider what is needed to make the activities happen—these are the inputs.


Inputs are the staff, partners, and financial and other resources that make it possible to implement activities. Examples of diverse inputs include these:

  • Your own staff time and expertise
  • A partner's donation of gymnasium time
  • The city chamber of commerce's donation of financial resources
  • The public support of the mayor
  • An existing trail


When you plan physical activity interventions, consider evidence-based interventions, that is, interventions that have been shown to work. The Guide to Community Preventive Services: What Works to Promote Health? (Community Guide) (Heath et al., 2006; Kahn et al., 2002; Zaza et al., 2005) includes eight recommended physical activity intervention categories within three broad approaches and are described more fully in Part II. Selecting one or more of these interventions and tailoring them based on a formative assessment will increase the chances of having an effective intervention.

Writing a work plan and developing a logic model that specifies the details of your activities can be very helpful. The work plan should include a time line with a detailed description of tasks and an identified person who agrees to do them, as described in table 7.1.

More Excerpts From Promoting Physical Activity 2nd Edition