Beth Weitzman, Diana Silver, and Wagner Team Honored for Urban Health Initiative Evaluation

A national evaluation of the Urban Health Initiative (UHI) undertaken by Steinhardt Associate Dean Beth Weitzman and a team of NYU researchers, will be honored with the American Evaluation Association‘s (AEA) 2010 Outstanding Evaluation Award. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson, the UHI was a 10-year multi-city initiative aimed at improving health and safety of children and youth in large distressed cities that included Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, and Richmond (Virginia).

“Among the many factors leading to this recognition was the impact of this report on the evaluation and design of large-scale community health programs,” says Tarek Azzam, 2010 chair of AEA’s Awards Committee. “The UHI evaluation offered a model for how to conduct long-term place-based evaluations that capture local program impact through qualitative approaches while combining this information within a broader quantitative perspective. Most importantly, the evaluation accommodated the information needs of stakeholders at the local and policy levels by offering relevant information to help inform their decision making processes.”

Azzam noted that the long-term nature of the project and its impact at multiple sites made it particularly challenging and comprehensive both in scope and in evaluation efforts.

“Just as we struggle to try to find the appropriate policies and programs to improve the health and safety of children in America’s most distressed cities, so too must we struggle with the question of how best to figure out which of these policies and programs are proving most beneficial,” Weitzman said. “Evaluating the ambitious and bold effort that was the Urban Health Initiative required that we grapple with this question, and I am deeply appreciative that the association has recognized, with this award, our efforts to find a balanced, rigorous, and creative approach.”

The Urban Health Initiative prompted changes in public policy, led to new partnerships with various local agencies and fostered collaboration between health care facilities and schools, social service agencies and other youth-serving institutions. Each site attempted to educate the public about the health and safety problems faced by their city’s youth. Civic engagement was encouraged through candidate forums on children’s issue and, in some sites, through voter registration activities. Some initiatives yielded success; other served as lessons learned.

“We came to view Dr. Weitzman’s team not just as evaluators of the site and intervention, but as our partner in determining what was working and what was not,” says Andrew Freeman, board president of the Family League of Baltimore City and a board member of Safe and Sound: Baltimore’s Campaign for Children, Youth and Families. “Their evaluations informed our decisions at every step, helping us to make data-driven decisions regarding how to spend scarce resources.”

AEA is an international professional association of evaluators devoted to the application and exploration of program evaluation, personnel evaluation, technology, and many other forms of evaluation.

Members of the UHI evaluation team include Steinhardt Assistant Professor Diana Silver, who served as project director to the evaluation, and NYU Wagner School faculty members Research Assistant Professor Tod Mijanovich and Professor Charles Brecher. Weitzman is a professor of health and public policy and associate dean for faculty and academic affairs at NYU Steinhardt.

Photo (left to right): Charles Brecher, Beth Weitzman, Tod Mijanovich, Diana Silver.

Click here to read more about this award.