Frequently Asked Questions
The National Evaluation Platform is a rigorous new approach to compiling and analyzing data from diverse sources so that countries can get strategic, evidence-based answers to their most pressing program and policy questions. It provides
- a new way to assess the effectiveness and impact of maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition (MNCH&N) programs
- a systematic approach for identifying and compiling health and nutrition data from diverse, multi-sectoral sources, and ensuring that they are available for program evaluation
- a core set of analytical methods for developing evidence-based answers to countries’ pressing program and policy questions
- a commitment to building sustainable national capacity
Countries need a National Evaluation Platform because
- Improving maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition requires investing in and scaling up interventions that are proven to work, but many governments lack the reliable and consistent data and rigorous analysis to assess what works and what doesn’t.
- Many important programs, projects, and interventions are not being effectively or consistently evaluated.
- Countries have a wealth of national and district-level health and nutrition data, but the data are not centralized, well-organized, or widely available for analysis that supports decision-making.
- Governments face challenges in clearly and consistently reporting on key MNCH&N indicators tracked in national and international accountability frameworks.
Program evaluation has become increasingly difficult because
- Proliferation of programs and interventions has made it unrealistic to find true ‘control groups’ needed for comparison in traditional evaluation designs.
- Data which can be used to assess the impact of contextual factors on program results are often not available.
- Program implementers and governments lack the capacity to use rigorous analytical techniques that accurately assess program impact.
- Donors and policy makers often focus only on specific regions; they seldom provide funding for rigorous program evaluation, and they do not use comparable methods allowing shared review.
- NEP brings together available and relevant national and district-level data from a range of sources and assesses their quality. NEP also analyzes data and provides findings to evaluators, program managers, governments, and others. As additional data become available, NEP is updated, creating a longitudinal data set that enables analysis of trends over time.
- NEP enables use of rigorous analytical methods to assess the impact of programs and strategies. It addresses multi-sectoral integration by assessing different programs (health, nutrition, WASH) together over time, enables comparative analyses of contextual factors that may affect program results, and facilitates equity analysis to identify populations that are not being reached by key interventions.
- NEP offers a suite of 8 capacity building technical areas that cover key evaluation, analysis, and advocacy competencies to conduct evaluations. Technical areas are organized in skill-based modules which individuals can choose based on analysis focus and individual capacity.
- NEP empowers countries to answer complex program and policy questions, and enables decision-makers to base strategic and program planning on a foundation of evidence.
- NEP enables use of rigorous analytical methods to assess the impact of programs and strategies.
- NEP helps governments to hold themselves accountable, to demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of development aid strategies to donors and communities, and to report clearly and consistently on key MNCH&N indicators that are tracked in national and international accountability frameworks.
- NEP builds in-country capacity to improve data quality and availability, conduct rigorous analysis, and track national progress on women’s and children’s health.
- NEP is country-led and country-owned. National public sector institutions are leading actors in every aspect of its development and use, and a national steering committee of high-level leaders from stakeholder institutions identifies priority evaluation questions and receives NEP findings. Within NEP’s “home institution” in each country, as well as in other key partner institutions, selected scientists, managers, and staff members receive intensive training and capacity-building in compilation and maintenance of data, and in a range of rigorous analytical techniques. Johns Hopkins University’s Institute for International Programs provides technical support and training for the development and use of NEP, with funding from the Government of Canada.
NEP data and analysis can help address a range of issues, including:
- Global and national goals and targets, for example:
- Why did a country achieve Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 but not MDG 5?
- Impact of interventions on health and survival outcomes, for example:
- How many lives can be saved by scaling up a program over the next 5 years to improve coverage of an intervention by 20%?
- Decisions about program scale-up, for example:
- Should a regional pilot intervention be scaled up to the entire country or only select areas or sub-populations?
- Program prioritization, for example:
- Which interventions should receive additional investment in order to maximize impact?
- Equity of coverage, for example:
- Are nutrition programs really reaching the poorest population?
- Effect of contextual factors, for example:
- How does rapid economic growth in certain regions influence the impact of health and nutrition interventions?
Over time, in-country NEP teams will build their skills to analyze more types of data with more sophisticated analytical tools, in order to address the increasingly complex questions faced by policy-makers.
NEP provides a foundation on which countries can build strong, sustainable national capacity to improve data quality and availability, conduct rigorous analysis, and track national progress on women’s and children’s health.
NEP is a national platform built on national and district-level data. Other national platforms may provide an incomplete data picture, including data from only some districts or data from vertical evaluations. Through compilation of available data, and use of innovative methods for disaggregating household surveys to district level, NEP provides a strong data set for analysis and identifies where gaps in data persist.
NEP is guided by the Common Evaluation Framework, a conceptual model that defines the causal pathway(s) through which a given program or intervention is expected to impact health status. The framework also identifies contextual factors and their potential influence on the various components of the pathway.
NEP builds a centralized, consistently organized, and accessible home for key health, nutrition, and other contextual data from a range of sources, which grows and evolves as additional data become available. Core district-level data come from population-based household surveys including Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), censuses, and surveillance. These are supplemented by routine health management information systems (HMIS) data, program monitoring data, and results of special studies. The NEP database also includes relevant demographic and environmental data, to support analysis of contextual factors. All data are assessed for quality and consistency, ensuring analysis based on the best available information.
NEP compiles existing data from a variety of sources, assesses their quality, and organizes them into a unified, consistently-formatted database that is made available for further analysis. NEP collects new quantitative and qualitative data in specific instances when they are need to fill gaps in information on inputs, process, or context related to priority evaluation questions. NEP does not conduct new large-scale household surveys to fill gaps in intervention coverage or impact data.
NEP is not a survey. NEP is a comprehensive technical approach to compiling existing national and district-level data, rigorously analyzing data, and using data to inform strategic and programmatic decision-making.
NEP grew out of experience in Malawi, where rapid national scale-up of an integrated community case management (iCCM) program required development of an innovative evaluation design based on dose-response analysis. Leading evaluation scientists have contributed to the development of the NEP concept, co-authoring a Lancet paper and convening a Rockefeller Foundation-supported experts’ meeting in March 2011.
NEP is developed by the Institute for International Programs at Johns Hopkins University, in close collaboration with in-country government and academic partners. This partnership builds on IIP’s many years of experience working with governments to improve maternal and child health and nutrition by supporting the generation and use of sound evidence for program design and implementation.
In 2014 through 2016, four African countries—Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, and Tanzania—are building their own NEPs. NEP partners hope that successful development of the platform in these countries will provide proof of concept, leading to adoption of the NEP approach in other countries.