Context as a Fundamental Dimension of Health Promotion Program Evaluation

  • Blake Poland
  • Katherine L. Frohlich
  • Margaret Cargo

Context can be broadly defined as “the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place” (Encarta, 1999). That ‘something’ can be health behavior, another health determinant, an intervention, or an evaluation. Each of these events unfolds, not in a vacuum, but in a complex social context which necessarily shapes how the phenomena are manifest, as well as how they may be taken up, resisted or modified. In this chapter we unpack the nature and significance of social context for health promotion practice and evaluation. Drawing on critical realism, we develop a framework for understanding key dimensions of social context that impact on three key levels: the target phenomena (what health promotion practice is seeking to change or enhance), the intervention (how it is received and plays out, its impact), and efforts to evaluate health promotion interventions (we propose that evaluation practice is also embedded in social context).

That social...


Health Promotion Social Context Knowledge Translation Evaluation Research Causal Power 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We would like to acknowledge Louise Potvin and John Garcia for helpful comments on an earlier draft, as well as participants of the 2006 Annual Symposium in Healthcare Technology and Place (Toronto, May, 2006) for their provocative and challenging questions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Blake Poland
    • 1
  • Katherine L. Frohlich
  • Margaret Cargo
  1. 1.Department of Public Health SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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