Case Study: Youth Health Equity Leadership Institute
There is a greater need than ever to ensure that scarce resources from schools, nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies are being used effectively. However, organizations often lack sufficient internal capacity to adequately evaluate the impact of their initiatives, which can undermine opportunities to obtain additional funding and to sustain promising practices.
During 2014-15 we evaluated the innovative Youth Health Equity Leadership Institute (YHELI) on behalf of the East District Family Resource Center in Richmond, Virginia. The Resource Center, a small, local non-profit, was awarded a two-year grant by a regional foundation to implement YHELI with middle school and high school students who live in and near one of the City’s public housing communities. YHELI provided training, skill building, and community engagement opportunities for youth-participants to increase their understanding of health disparities, community health, and the root causes of poor health. Groups of YHELI participants identified community health priorities where they live, play, and learn, and created team-based projects to promote improved health by targeting policies, systems, and environmental factors that shape community health.
Our evaluation included formative, process, and outcome measures. Formative measures determined how closely YHELI was implemented compared to the initial curriculum design, the challenges that were faced during implementation, and lessons learned. The process evaluation assessed the number and content of curricular sessions and their value to the participants. The initiative was also evaluated to determine the impact of YHELI on participants and their communities. In particular, we assessed the curriculum’s impact on leadership skills, perceived self-efficacy, and risk behaviors among the youth. While the number of participants was too small to achieve statistical significance, trends towards improvements in all of these outcomes were identified. Qualitative feedback from participants reinforced these findings. YHELI participants created a team-based project to market the City’s healthy corner store initiative to their community,
We view the evaluation as an opportunity to assist a grassroots organization that is doing important work to improve the health and well-being of youth, their families, and their communities, but would otherwise have limited to capacity to evaluate its impact.