Spring 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 1 // Research in Brief // 1RIB1

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Prevention Program Impacts


Robert J. Fetsch
Associate Professor and Extension Specialist
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
Colorado State University-Fort Collins

Over a five-year period, seven county agents and I evaluated 27 Extension stress and coping programs with 615 rural Kentucky program participants. Nineteen programs were evaluated immediately following the program using an instrument called "Helping Us Serve You Better, Part 1" (HUSYB1); 16 were evaluated one to two months later using Part 2 (HUSYB2).1 The programs covered different topics: stress and coping, crisis intervention, depression management, loneliness resolution, midlife adjustment, time management, managing feelings, active listening, tapping one's vitality resources, conflict negotiation, and marriage enrichment.

When the end-of-program evaluation instrument (HUSYB1) was used, participants were asked to report their honest reactions to the day's program. To evaluate higher-level program impacts, a few minutes at the end of the program were spent acquainting the people with the follow-up instrument (HUSYB2) which asked them to specify personal contracts for change they wanted to make. These contracts were collected as the facilitators explained they'd mail them back about four to six weeks later with a business reply mail envelope for participants to report any changes actually made as a result of the program.

Using a 10-point Likert rating scale, 328 rural participants rated the stress and coping programs on average "better" than other ways of learning (school, television, magazines, books). The response rate was 89%.

The follow-up data were analyzed to determine attitudinal and behavioral changes participants made as a result of the educational programs. Overall, 243 out of 271 respondents (90%) reported making positive attitudinal changes. Some commonly reported impacts of the programs were attitudinal changes like: "I accept and like myself better." "I now know the difference between a predicament and a problem." "I'm now more tolerant of others." "I'm now more aware of stress symptoms in my family."

Of positive behavioral changes made, 211 out of 244 respondents (86%) reported doing something different that they considered an improvement. Frequently cited behavioral changes as a result of participating in the 16 programs were: "I'm taking better care of myself." "We reduced our level of family stress." "We used the techniques we learned to resolve a family problem." "I'm now a better listener." (The response rate of 67% for the 16 programs evaluated using HUSYB2 is fairly high given that reductions in postage allowances prevented us from mailing follow-up letters.)

The data analyzed in the present study suggest that well-designed stress and coping prevention programs do make a difference with rural participants. Ninety out of 100 respondents reported changing their attitudes, and 86 out of 100 reported doing something different as a result of the program that they considered an improved behavior. They applied the research-based information to their personal lives. To underscore rural participants' conviction that the Extension programs were worthwhile, 93% (178 out of 192) said they favored continuing to spend their tax dollars on these types of programs.


1. Sam Quick and Karen Davis, "A Self-Reporting Evaluation Tool," Journal of Extension, XVII (November/December 1979), 20-25 and Sam Quick and others, Helping Us Serve You Better: A Made-for Extension Evaluation Tool, 1981. (Available from first author, 320 Funkhouser Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0054.)