The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ranks among the world’s leading research universities. Within the UNC School of Medicine, the Department of Family Medicine is currently ranked second in the nation by US News & World Report. The University of North Carolina Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program (TPEP), housed in the UNC Department of Family Medicine, has provided expertise in formative and summative evaluation for tobacco control, prevention, and cessation initiatives since 1995.
TPEP works under the philosophy of "utilization-focused" evaluation, where monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is designed to provide the most useful information to program leaders and other stakeholders. These stakeholders include the media, with which TPEP has extensive experience, and policymakers. Indeed, a TPEP evaluation and media outreach led to the leading newspaper in North Carolina editorializing that the governor "should be proud" of the state's tobacco programs and "with proof in hand that the trust fund's approach works, there's no good reason not to push harder" (Raleigh News & Observer, January 5, 2009).
The TPEP research team, led by Dr. Adam Goldstein, a national leader in tobacco control research and evaluation for over 20 years, has extensive expertise working with departments of health in states across the country. Dr. Goldstein and his team have been the independent evaluators of the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund’s MSA-funded tobacco prevention and cessation initiatives since their inception in 2003. This work has yielded extensive experience with state, county, hospital, school, and college programs across North Carolina. Under Dr. Goldstein’s leadership, TPEP has worked on multiple projects involving dissemination of tobacco prevention and cessation research findings to public health entities. Major efforts have included tobacco research and evaluation with multiple state tobacco control agencies (e.g., Louisiana, Vermont, Texas, North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, New Mexico, and West Virginia). Research projects involved identifying and disseminating findings on smoking among gays and lesbians, disseminating information on new demographic questions in BRFSS, and evaluating the state capacity of tobacco prevention programs.
As independent evaluators, TPEP works with clients to conduct needs assessments, develop logic models, and create program indicators. TPEP believes that clients are more likely to understand, own, and apply evaluation findings if they are involved in planning processes. Each project begins with planning, shared discussions of expected and measurable program outcomes, and reasonable timelines. By ensuring that logic model development guides activities, we increase the likelihood that relevant program outcomes are measured. TPEP designs tailored evaluations to fit program budget costs while maximizing return on investment, a crucial and often underappreciated facet of successful evaluation. TPEP has extensive experience with web-based reporting of program indicators to reduce program burden in reporting and facilitate data tracking.
TPEP is consistently recognized by clients for exceeding expectations and maximizing return on investment. Our staff is known for creative problem-solving abilities, professionalism, and skill in managing project logistics and timelines. TPEP staff are trained in conducting and analyzing focus groups and long interviews; designing and administering mail, telephone, and web-based surveys; strategically using incentives to increase response rates; designing CATI questionnaires; and, pilot testing survey instruments. TPEP has a demonstrated ability to provide rapid and efficient data collection with consistently high response rates. TPEP conducts secondary data analysis on large databases, including Youth Tobacco Survey, BRFSS and quitlines.
Report production and dissemination is one of TPEP’s primary strengths. Reports are designed for maximum usability by stakeholder groups. TPEP’s annual outcomes evaluation reports of the NC Statewide Tobacco Initiatives provided an overview of NC tobacco prevention and control landscape, tobacco program goals, accomplishments, and challenges, and program recommendations that were distributed to state legislators.
TPEP has also led multiple evaluations of policy initiatives directly linked to program outcomes, including: a) examination of factors linked to passage of 100% tobacco-free school policies, b) diffusion of 100% tobacco-free college policies, c) diffusion of 100% tobacco-free hospital policies, d) the impact of a media campaign to influence tobacco free school policy outcomes, and e) examination of public perceptions of the value of initiatives to increase cessation activities compared to the value of initiatives to reduce teen tobacco use.
TPEP evaluations of integrated tobacco prevention and cessation programs include: North Carolina Tobacco Initiatives, a comprehensive $17 million annual tobacco prevention and cessation program that included quitline services, teen coalitions, statewide media campaign and tobacco-free college initiative, and pilot projects such as a process evaluation of wellness programs for mental health populations through psychosocial rehabilitation centers; increased cessation services through QuitlineNC for Medicaid, uninsured, and mental health populations; State Health Plan efforts to encourage tobacco cessation among state employees by changing to an 80/20 health plan deductible for non-smokers; model hospital inpatient tobacco cessation programs; secondary data analysis of the Youth Tobacco Survey; NCI’s Comprehensive Cancer Centers tobacco use treatment services; and, statewide surveillance and cessation for tobacco use among gays and lesbians.