The Use of Goal Attainment Scaling in a Community Health Promotion Initiative with Seniors
Background: Evaluating collaborative community health promotion initiatives presents unique challenges, including engaging community members and other stakeholders in the evaluation process, and measuring the attainment of goals at the collective community level. Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) is a versatile, under-utilized evaluation tool adaptable to a wide range of situations. GAS actively involves all partners in the evaluation process and has many benefits when used in community health settings.
Methods: The purpose of this paper is to describe the use of GAS as a potential means of measuring progress and outcomes in community health promotion and community development projects. GAS methodology was used in a local community of seniors (n = 2500; mean age = 76 +/- 8.06 SD; 77% female, 23% male) to a) collaboratively set health promotion and community partnership goals and b) objectively measure the degree of achievement, over- or under-achievement of the established health promotion goals. Goal attainment was measured in a variety of areas including operationalizing a health promotion centre in a local mall, developing a sustainable mechanism for recruiting and training volunteers to operate the health promotion centre, and developing and implementing community health education programs. Goal attainment was evaluated at 3 monthly intervals for one year, then re-evaluated again at year 2.
Results: GAS was found to be a feasible and responsive method of measuring community health promotion and community development progress. All project goals were achieved at one year or sooner. The overall GAS score for the total health promotion project increased from 16.02 at baseline (sum of scale scores = -30, average scale score = -2) to 54.53 at one year (sum of scale scores = +4, average scale score = +0.27) showing project goals were achieved above the expected level. With GAS methodology an amalgamated score of 50 represents the achievement of goals at the expected level.
Conclusion: GAS provides a "participatory", flexible evaluation approach that involves community members, research partners and other stakeholders in the evaluation process. GAS was found to be "user-friendly" and readily understandable by seniors and other community partners not familiar with program evaluation.