This web-based seminar series aims to increase skills of researchers and practitioners in policy evaluation effectiveness.

Increasingly, policies are being implemented at state and local levels that are intended to reduce obesity prevalence by improving diet and/or increasing physical activity. Rigorous evaluation of these “natural experiments” may be an effective means for the research community to inform policy on the issues of obesity, diet, and activity.

The four webinars were taught by Dr. Kathryn Newcomer, co-director of the Midge Smith Center for Evaluation Effectiveness and Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.


Webinar 1: Basics of Design to Evaluate Policy Interventions

Feb 27, 2009


  • Planning to enhance the elements of methodological integrity in design: validity, reliability, statistical testing and generalizability
  • Establishing appropriate comparisons
  • Establishing appropriate benchmarks for assessing performance
  • Sampling strategies
  • Pre-testing all data collection instruments in the appropriate populations

Watch the webinar. Download the slides.

Webinar 2: Addressing Pitfalls to Research in Real World Settings

Apr 3, 2009


  • Redundancy and contingency plans before going into the field
  • Addressing data quality assurance in real time
  • Addressing limitations to assessment of validity and reliability
  • Addressing problems of measurement influencing behavior (response set on surveys; Hawthorne effect and Pygmalion effects on performance, etc.)
  • Assessing the robustness of our measures

Watch the webinar. Download the slides.

Webinar 3: Enhancing the Usefulness of Evidence to Inform Practice

May 1, 2009


  • The rule of evidence from GAO – relevance, competence and sufficiency
  • Bolstering confidence in results
  • Expressing degrees of uncertainty fairly
  • Expressing assumptions so that practitioners can assess how much credence to put into findings
  • Planning for dissemination of results

Watch the webinar. Download the slides.

Webinar 4: Communicating Results Effectively

Jun 12, 2009


  • Thinking strategically about what type(s) of results to report and where to report them
  • Conveying the strength of the research process and evidence transparently and clearly to audiences
  • Presenting both quantitative and qualitative data clearly
  • Clarifying the difference between statistical significance and the practical importance of results
  • Crafting Executive Summaries that are well-suited for a particular audience (e.g., policymakers, researchers, etc.)

Watch the webinar. Download the slides.

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