Evaluating Programs That Address Ideological Issues: Ethical and Practical Considerations for Practitioners and Evaluators

Lisa D. Lieberman, Michael C. Fagen, Brad L. Neiger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


There are important practical and ethical considerations for organizations in conducting their own, or commissioning external, evaluations and for both practitioners and evaluators, when assessing programs built on strongly held ideological or philosophical approaches. Assessing whether programs "work" has strong political, financial, and/or moral implications, particularly when expending public dollars, and may challenge objectivity about a particular program or approach. Using a case study of the evaluation of a school-based abstinence-until-marriage program, this article discusses the challenges, lessons learned, and ethical responsibilities regarding decisions about evaluation, specifically associated with ideologically driven programs. Organizations should consider various stakeholders and views associated with their program to help identify potential pitfalls in evaluation. Once identified, the program or agency needs to carefully consider its answers to two key questions: Do they want the answer and are they willing to modify the program? Having decided to evaluate, the choice of evaluator is critical to assuring that ethical principles are maintained and potential skepticism or criticism of findings can be addressed appropriately. The relationship between program and evaluator, including agreements about ownership and eventual publication and/or promotion of data, should be addressed at the outset. Programs and organizations should consider, at the outset, their ethical responsibility when findings are not expected or desired. Ultimately, agencies, organizations, and programs have an ethical responsibility to use their data to provide health promotion programs, whether ideologically founded or not, that appropriately and effectively address the problems they seek to solve.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-167
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Promotion Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • ethical issues
  • evaluation
  • ideological programs


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