Evaluation of the Shepparton Health Heart Projct: project description, evaluation design and methodology

This paper describes the conduct of the Shepparton Healthy Heart Project (SHHP) and the design and methodology of its evaluation. The SHHP was a community-based, coronary heart disease primary prevention project, auspiced by the Victorian Division of the National Heart Foundation, in association with the residents of Shepparton, a medium-sized rural community in Central Victoria. It sought, through community participation, to modify its 'culture' and structures relevant to heart disease prevention (rather than focus exclusively on individual risk factor change). The SHHP had an overall Healthy Heart theme with three sequential phases relating to nutrition, physical exercise and smoking. There were additional subprograms directed at particular subpopulations (Koori and NESB) and community organisations (general medical practitioners, eating places, schools and pharmacies). The evaluation's overall design was quasi-experimental, based on a comparison of relevant changes in Shepparton and a comparable community, Mildura in North-Western Victoria across the project period, particularly through the use of baseline and follow-up instruments. Cognitive and behavioural changes in individuals as well as perceptions about change in local groups and the community was assessed using a self-administered mail questionnaire (to 1712 subjects aged 18-74 years at baseline). This was also studied using multiple focus groups. The level and nature of community participation in the SHHP was assessed based on interviews of key informants, document analysis and observations of the evaluation group. The response of the local media was assessed using a log of health-related items in the local newspapers across the project period. Evaluation of the SHHP's phases included self-administered questionnaires and a log of food purchasing behaviour at local supermarkets across the project period. Evaluation of subprograms aimed at schools, eating places and general practitioners involved onsite assessments, interviews or mail questionnaires. The two communities had very similar socio-demographic profiles and only minor differences in baseline levels of Heart Health parameters at baseline.



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