Multiplying Health Gains: the critical role of capacity-building within health promotion programs
Health outcomes in populations are the product of three factors: (1) the size of effect of the intervention; (2) the reach or penetration of an intervention into a population and (3) the sustainability of the effect. The last factor is crucial. In recent years, many health promotion workers have moved the focus of their efforts away from the immediate population group or environment of interest towards making other health workers and other organisations responsible for, and more capable of, conducting health promotion programs, maintaining those programs and initiating others. ‘Capacity-building’ by health promotion workers, to enhance the capacity of the system to prolong and multiply health effects thus represents a ‘value added’ dimension to the health outcomes offered by any particular health promotion program. The value of this activity will become apparent in the long term, with methods to detect multiple types of health outcomes. But in the short term its value will be difficult to assess unless we devise specific measures to detect it. At present the term ‘capacity-building’ is conceptualised and assessed in different ways in the health promotion literature. Development of reliable indicators of capacity-building which could be used both in program planning and in program evaluation will need to take this into account. Such work will provide health-decision makers with information about program potential at the conclusion of the funding period, which could be factored into resource allocation decisions, in addition to the usual information about a program's impact on health outcomes. By program potential, we mean ability to reap greater and wider health gains.