Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., from Tulane University, discussed evaluation of complex environmental and public health efforts Feb. 13, as part of the NIEHS Keystone Science Lecture Seminar Series.
Christie Drew, Ph.D., hosted the talk. “She’s looking at the big picture, far more than the outcome of any one grant,” said Drew, who leads the Program Analysis Branch of the NIEHS Division of Extramural Research (DERT).
Lichtveld brings a valuable perspective to enterprise evaluation, including serving on the NIEHS National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council (see related story) as a grantee. Her roles at Tulane include director of the Center for Gulf Coast Environmental Health Research, Leadership, and Strategic Initiatives and chair of the Department of Global Environmental Health Sciences. She formerly worked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Align public health impacts
Lichtveld proposed an approach for evaluating a collective research enterprise by aligning the public health impacts of multiple projects, although each maintains its own independent data collection. Those involved in each project collaborate at the outset to identify desired impacts, and again at the end to reflect on the impacts they achieved. She drew upon three programs for context (see sidebar).
Community-based research presents distinct challenges compared with research in labs or occupational settings, Lichtveld emphasized. “Short-term outcomes of specific projects may change, but not the agreed-upon final collective impact.”
Drew noted that the approach resonates with the Evaluation Metrics Manual developed by the NIEHS Partnerships for Environmental Public Health. “If we’re working together toward a common public health impact, we will get farther and have more powerful results,” Drew said.