Selection of Indicators

Persons with limited evaluation experience often are bewildered by the process of selecting indicators. The following criteria were used to select indicators included in this database:

  • Relevance: There is a clear relationship between the indicator and FP/RH;
  • Accuracy: The indicator measures what it purports to measure;
  • Importance: The measurement captures something that "makes a difference" in program effectiveness;
  • Usefulness: The results point to areas for improvement.  Furthermore, the indicator captures information that helps move FP/RH strategies, priorities, or programming forward;
  • Feasibility: Data can be obtained with reasonable and affordable effort;
  • Credibility: The indicator has been recommended - and is being used - by leading experts and organizations such as WHO, UNAIDS, USAID, and UNFPA;
  • Validity: To the extent possible, the indicator has been field-tested (including those measured in Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and Reproductive Health Surveys (RHS)) or used in practice; and
  • Distinctiveness: The indicator lacks redundancy and does not measure something already captured under other indicators.

In addition, where indicators are presented as part of a set, this set should meet another criterion, namely that the overall set is coherent and balanced.

A concerted effort was made to harmonize the indicators presented here with those already in use by leading organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, UNFPR, USAID, etc.  Indicators from key initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals and USAID's Global Health Initiative (GHI) were deemed a high priority and of great importance.

When selecting indicators, it is important to consider both the long-term as well as the short-term objectives and how each will be measured.   "Benchmark" indicators, which measure progress made toward achieving greater outcomes, are key to ensuring programs and initiatives are on-track to reaching long-term goals.

This resource does not address the specialized evaluation of programs that relate to costs (e.g., cost analysis, cost- effectiveness analysis). Evaluators may use a number of the indicators (especially output measures, such as number of pregnant women tested and counseled for HIV, number of visits to male- oriented services, among others) to establish the cost per unit of output for a given service. However, the methodology for conducting cost analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis is sufficiently technical that interested readers are encouraged to refer to other specialized references. Evaluators should apply cost analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis in their own programs, despite the fact that the topic is not addressed in this database because of the specialized methodology required.

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