November 15, 2017
Alumni and a faculty member from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are part of a team that won the American Evaluation Association’s 2017 Outstanding Evaluation Award, announced by the Association on Nov. 3.
Rohit Ramaswamy, PhD, clinical associate professor in the Public Health Leadership Program and of maternal and child health at the Gillings School, was technical lead on the evaluation of SCALE (Spreading Community Accelerators Through Learning and Evaluation). SCALE aims to accelerate the development of a “Culture of Health” in American communities by improving population health, general well-being and health-care equity.
Alumnae Morgen Palfrey Stanzler, MPH (health behavior), and Marie Lina Excellent, MD, MPH (Public Health Leadership Program), were evaluation team members.
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which received a $6.3 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) in July, led a group of partner organizations in the implementation of the first phase of SCALE.
The first phase involved a 20-month “learning and doing” collaborative among 24 U.S. communities. The effort focused upon providing an environment in which health improvements could be instituted rapidly through the development of strong working relationships, identification of best practices across communities, and building of capacity to innovate, adapt and learn.
The SCALE formative evaluative team, of which Ramaswamy, Stanzler and Excellent were a part, was an interdisciplinary entity that drew upon experts with backgrounds in design and systems thinking, implementation science, improvement science and public health from a variety of institutions.
The group collaborated on developing a multilevel approach that combined traditional methods of inquiry with participatory reflective practice. Team members played a vital role in conducting rapid-cycle evaluation of the learning sessions, performing data analysis and leading case studies involving multiple visits to selected communities.
“The SCALE project is a complex intervention implemented in a complex setting,” Ramaswamy said. “We were building the boat as it was sailing, so to speak, and therefore the evaluation required a learning component that examined what was emerging as the project was implemented. We adapted the evaluation to accommodate this emergence. The balance between the formative and learning aspects made the SCALE 1.0 evaluation unique.”
Abraham Wandersman, PhD, professor of community psychology at the University of South Carolina at Columbia, was principal investigator for the evaluation of the award-winning first phase of SCALE.
Ramaswamy and Wandersman are co-principal investigators on Phase 2 of the project.
To date, Phase 2 has involved Gillings School master’s students Karthik Adapa, in health policy and management, and Luke Newton and Nora Bynum, both in the Public Health Leadership Program.
“The best public health scientists are brilliant at solving problems and identifying ways to prevent or treat disease and to improve well-being,” said Julie MacMillan, MPH, managing director of Research, Innovation and Global Solutions at the Gillings School. “Those solutions, or interventions, must get quickly to the people who need them the most. The SCALE project is proof that the use of principles, methods and tools of improvement science– along with tenacity – can put effective solutions in place around the world.”