Process evaluation in a multisite, primary obesity-prevention trial in American Indian schoolchildren.

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We describe the development, implementation, and use of the process evaluation component of a multisite, primary obesity prevention trial for American Indian schoolchildren. We describe the development and pilot testing of the instruments, provide some examples of the criteria for instrument selection, and provide examples of how process evaluation results were used to document and refine intervention components. The theoretical and applied framework of the process evaluation was based on diffusion theory, social learning theory, and the desire for triangulation of multiple modes of data collection. The primary objectives of the process evaluation were to systematically document the training process, content, and implementation of 4 components of the intervention. The process evaluation was developed and implemented collaboratively so that it met the needs of both the evaluators and those who would be implementing the intervention components. Process evaluation results revealed that observation and structured interviews provided the most informative data; however, these methods were the most expensive and time consuming and required the highest level of skill to undertake. Although the literature is full of idealism regarding the uses of process evaluation for formative and summative purposes, in reality, many persons are sensitive to having their work evaluated in such an in-depth, context-based manner as is described. For this reason, use of structured, quantitative, highly objective tools may be more effective than qualitative methods, which appear to be more dependent on the skills and biases of the researcher and the context in which they are used.