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Public Health Nursing Practice Manual

Designing Meaningful, Measurable Objectives

The next step in the program planning process after selecting indicators is writing objectives. Objectives may be written at both the health status and intermediate levels. Health status objectives tend to have a longer time frame; intermediate objectives measure changes that ultimately lead to changes in health status.

Each goal usually has several objectives. Objectives are statements that indicate in what specific ways you intend to reach your stated goal. Objectives are concrete and measurable statements of how the goal will be reached. There are different levels of objectives; all of them are important. The objectives that you choose are the basis of both program planning AND program evaluation.

Objectives generally follow the format: “By [time frame], [percent of change] of

[ w h o o r w h a t Examples: ] w

i l l [ i n d i c a t o r ] .

, ___________ ____________ By when? % Change ___________, ____________

By when?





Who ___________ % Change




Indicator ____________


The components of an objective


  • Who will change (Target population)

  • What will change (Indicator)

  • Time frame of change

  • The amount of change (Either the proportion of the target population expected to show change or the amount of change expected on the indicator)

All objectives measure change. Measuring change requires a baseline. If a baseline does not exist it must be established before a measure of change can take place.

Types of Objectives: Outcome, Intermediate, Process


Outcome Objectives Outcome objectives measure the end result of the intervention or strategy. They may measure the impact on the overall problem, ultimate goal, side effects, or social and economics consequences. Outcome objectives tend to be long-term and often measure changes in health status of a population (frequently described in terms of morbidity or mortality).


Intermediate Objectives Intermediate objectives link the outcome objectives to the process objectives. They describe the changes that will occur that ultimately result in or produce the desired outcome. They are precursors to attaining the outcome. Intermediate objectives have shorter time frames and clearly reflect what can be accomplished and measured within the time period of the program plan. Intermediate objectives assess measures which have a high probability of reducing a health problem or increasing resiliency/capacity. These objectives measure the impact of specific interventions designed to achieve the outcome. Intermediate objectives measure changes in organizations, laws, policies, and power structures at the systems level, changes in community norms, attitudes, awareness, beliefs, practices, and behavior at the community level, and knowledge, attitude, beliefs, values, skills, circumstances, behaviors, and practices at the individual/family level.


Process Objectives Process objectives are the methods of the intervention. They detail the specific tasks that will be carried out within a specified time frame. Process objectives describes the input; the means by which the intervention or strategy will be implemented. They include inputs, participation, and reactions.

The most convincing, useful program planning and program evaluation have measurable, meaningful objectives at all levels, and should reflect the theory of action underlying the strategies.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health, Public Health Nursing Section. (2000). Public Health Nursing Practice for the 21st Century: National Satellite Learning Conference; Competency Development in Population-based Practice October 5, November 2, December 7, 2000. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Health, Public Health Nursing Section. Retrieved May 7, 2001, http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/phn/material.htm

© 2007 LAC DPH - Public Health Nursing

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