Document Type : Commentary
National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA
Initiatives to engage the public in health policy decisions have been widely endorsed and used, yet agreed upon methods for systematically evaluating the effectiveness of these initiatives remain to be developed. Dukhanin, Topazian, and DeCamp have thus developed a useful taxonomy of evaluation criteria derived from a systematic review of published evaluation tools that might serve as the basis for systematic evaluation. In considering the application of such a taxonomy, it is important to appreciate the political space in which health policy decisions occur. In this context, public engagement initiatives are likely to have a modest and unpredictable impact on policy decisions. Other goals, aside from influencing policy decisions, such as informing the public about issues, identifying the public’s values, enhancing public support for decisions, and promoting public discourse, are likely to be more feasible. While Dukanan and colleagues did not aim to do so, future efforts to align guidance for planning public engagement initiatives with evaluation tools would be useful to promote the success of public engagement initiatives.