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Why Evaluate Risk Communication Programs?

Historical Document

This document is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community. It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate.

(Regan and Desvousges 1990)

Evaluation is a purposeful effort to determine effectiveness. It is essential to communication because it provides feedback about whether risk messages are received, understood, and internalized by those for whom they are intended. Without evaluation, it is impossible for communicators to chose those messages and channels that use limited resources more effectively. Instead, communicators are left to their own subjective interpretations about what works and what does not. A lack of evaluation, therefore, affects both quality of the specific risk communication effort and the primary goal—improving public health.

The ideal way to apply evaluation findings is to improve ongoing risk communication activities. In addition, evaluation is valuable for other uses.

  • To provide evidence of need for additional funds or other resources
  • To increase institutional understanding of and support for risk communication activities
  • To encourage ongoing cooperative ventures with other organizations
  • To avoid making the same mistakes in future risk communication efforts

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