Key Public Health Questions
Who needs to know and do what?
This step is where basic project management concepts will be useful in actually implementing the activities that will help you achieve your objectives and ultimate aim.1
Planning an Intervention
Before you get to this stage it is assumed that you have already “designed” and “planned” your intervention.
You need to have defined the specific issue, target audience, the aim, objectives and the activities of your intervention before you reach this section.
Here we will briefly revisit some of the key concepts.
What are aims, objectives and activities?
Aim: An aim is a broad statement that relate to the improvement of a health condition in a population. This can be a change in mortality or morbidity rates, disability, quality of life or equity. Aims are achieved through a range of objectives.
Objective: Objectives are medium-term changes that you would like to see to help achieve your aim. Examples of this could be increased awareness or a change in policy, practice or environments. Activities undertaken to achieve these objectives are called activities.
Activities: Activities are short-term actions aimed at achieving an objective. Activities can include using print materials, online advertising, training workshops, peer support or a variety of other activities.
How will you achieve your aim, objectives and activities?
An action plan is the process that organises your activities into a sequence of tasks with defined timeframes, supported by a communication strategy. The reason that it is important to develop an action plan is that it:
- Enables the broad outline of the intervention to be converted into a actionable work plan
- Ensures that the activities of the intervention are organised enough to help establish the sequence of activities
- Ensures that there are clear roles and responsibilities of who will lead each activity
- Ensures the necessary allocation of resources has occurred
- Ensures risks are considered and mitigated
- Ensures effective communication procedures are in place to monitor progress of the intervention.
How do I develop an action plan?
In this template you can allocate roles and responsibilities as well as allocated resources to each activity.
How do I sequence my activities?
Gantt charts are a useful tool for sequencing you activities and tracking the timeline of your project, allowing for you to visually map when your intervention milestones are.
How do I allocate roles, responsibilities and resources?
Crucial to any action plan is the detailing of roles and responsibilities, and the allocation of the necessary resources is to assess the capabilities and capacity of your organisation to deliver on an intervention. The following questions can be used to make sure your action plan has been developed with this assessment in mind.
- Are there clear roles and responsibilities among internal staff?
- Are there clear roles and responsibilities among external partners?
- Do you have adequate human resources for the proposed activities? (This may include quantity, knowledge and competencies.)
- Do you need to recruit and/or have a retention plan?
- Do you have in place a staff development plan?
- Do you have the organisational structure in place necessary for intervention delivery? (An organisational chart is a useful starting point)
- Do you have the systems and policies in place for intervention delivery?
- What organisational decision making support and administration systems do you have in place?
- What organisational data collection systems are in place?
- Is there political will for the intervention?
- How are your senior managers, boards and governance committees involved, leading and advocating for the delivery of the intervention?
- Does your organisation have champions for the issue and/or intervention?
- Is there organisational management support?
How do I develop effective communication procedures?
Within every action plan it is important to consider how progress will be communicated to those involved in the intervention. Throughout the entire intervention it is essential that details about; the type of information to be conveyed, who requires the information, when they require the information and what format would be most effective to convey the information are all considered to ensure that everyone involved remains up-to-date.2
Unfortunately when developing communication procedures there is not a one size fits all approach as communication is required at a range of levels depending on the type of intervention. For example, when communicating with professionals documented reports, minutes from meetings, newsletters and seminars may be appropriate channels to communicate. However when communicating with the broader community information displays at shopping centres, advertisements, community notice boards and newsletters may be appropriate.2
How do I identify and mitigate risk?
All interventions have potential risks; identifying and mitigating these risks during the planning stage is essential to the success of any invention. To assist in identifying potential risks it can be useful to ask;3
- What are the risks?
- What are the benefits?
- Who will be affected?
If risks have been identified the following questions can be used to assess each risk.3
- Can the risks be avoided or minimised?
- Are better alternatives available?
- Do the benefits of the intervention outweigh the risks?
- How can the differences between the benefits and the risks be mediated?
Implementing an Intervention
In order to reach this stage you have; developed an action plan; sequenced your activities; allocated roles, responsibilities and resources; developed communication procedures and mitigated any potential risks. Now comes the time to implement all of the planning that you have completed.
Implementing the action plan
Within your action plan activities that need to be completed have been itemised and resources have been allocated to each activity. As a result, your action plan not only provides task lists for everyone involved in the project, it also acts as a reference point to assist with monitoring how the implementation is progressing.
Whilst reflecting on the progression of the implementation it is important to consider if changes need to be made to the action plan. If changes are required assessing the situation regularly will increase the options available to minimise the problem and decrease the consequences to the overall intervention.
Conducting process evaluation
In addition to this informal reflection on how the implementation is tracking it is also important that process evaluation is conducted while the intervention is being implemented. The form of process evaluation required will be influenced by the type of intervention and reporting requirements, however common data collection requirements relate to the intervention reach, quality and participation rates.
Further information and tools relating to process evaluation can be found within the evaluation step.
Ensuring effective communication
Effective communication between everyone involved in the intervention assists in ensuring that everyone involved has a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities and how they are contributing to the overall aim of the intervention, whilst also contributing to the overall success of the intervention. Communication patterns and methods used whilst implementing your intervention may differ from those used during the planning stages. Regardless of this difference communication is still essential during the implementation stage.
The implementation stage is also an important time to reflect on the communication methods being used to communicate with the target group. Key questions to ask include:
- Are the communications methods in use engaging the target group?
- Are the messages being conveyed receiving a positive response?
- Should the communication plan be reworked?
Follow up additional opportunities
Whilst implementing the intervention opportunities may present themselves to enhance the intervention which were not considered during the planning stages. In some cases these additional opportunities may naturally present themselves due to contextual factors or as a result of the interventions success.
Regardless of how the opportunity presented following it up has the potential to;
- Improve the success of the intervention
- Raise the profile of the intervention
- Identify avenues to broaden the impact of the intervention
Open avenues for future interventions.
As has already been mentioned, partnerships can be a key element to implementing an effective intervention and maximising its potential impact. The implementation of an intervention should involve determining where partnerships or alliances can be used to greatest benefit in order to achieve your selected aims and objectives.
Question which can guide your decision making include:
- What can/cannot your organisation influence?
- With whom do you need to work?
- What level of access does your organisation have to the target audience?
Further information about partnerships can be found here.
As mentioned in the Learn – Overview section, sustainability is a crucial consideration in the implementation of an intervention.
Just like evaluation it needs to be considered at the planning and implementation stage of an intervention.
Sustainability refers to:
“The existence of structures and processes that allow an intervention to leverage resources to effectively implement and maintain evidence-based policies and activities.” 1
Sustainability needs to be considered both in terms of:
- Sustainability assessment: assessing the value of continuing the intervention. This may involve determining whether or not the intervention should be discontinued, maintained or repeated. The answers to many of these questions is dependent upon the evaluation and monitoring activities undertaken for the intervention.
- Sustainability planning: Once new interventions have been established to be effective there is often a process of incorporating or institutionalising them into existing organisations. This process requires planning to ensure the effective ongoing delivery of beneficial interventions.
A practical guide for the consideration and planning of sustainability factors has been developed by the US Center for Public Health Systems Science. The guide proposed by this organisation includes a three part sustainability planning process that allows for the consideration of sustainability issues during the planning and implementation stages. The planning process includes the following:
Step one: Understand the factors that influence intervention sustainability
Step two: Complete an Intervention Assessment Tool
Step three: Use the results from the assessment process to inform a sustainability action plan
Step four: Implement the plan
It may be useful for you to think about completing the assessment and developing a sustainability action plan which can form part of your implementation of the intervention – so you are prepared for making the intervention sustainable in the longer term.
How to understand our behaviour presentation by Ros Snyder, Consultant Psychologist, WISDOM Is Your Life, and Shaun Nannup, Indigenous Consultant.
How to write persuasively presentation by Alecia Hancock, CEO, Hancock Creative.
1 Central Sydney Area Health Service (1994). Program Management Guidelines for Health Promotion, Sydney, Australia. Retrieved from:http://www.mentalhealthpromotion.net/resources/program-management-guidelines-for-health-promotion.pdf
2 Pavanta C. Essentials of Public Health Communication. Sudbury, MA. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2011. Retrieved from: http://samples.jbpub.com/9780763771157/71157_CH02_019_038.pdf
3Department of Health 2010, Pathway to a healthy community: a guide for councillors. South Metropolitan Public Health Unit, Perth. Retrieved from: https://knowinjury.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Pathway-to-a-healthy-community-Guide-for-Councillors.pdf