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Evaluating Public Health Resources: What Happens When Funding Disappears?
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    Introduction

    Although various factors affect the sustainability of public health programs, funding levels can influence many aspects of program continuity. Program evaluation in public health typically does not assess the progress of initiatives after discontinuation of funding. The objective of this study was to describe the effect of funding loss following expiration of a 5-year federal grant awarded to state health departments for development of statewide obesity prevention partnerships.

    Methods

    The study used qualitative methods involving semistructured key informant interviews with state health departments. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis for effect of funding loss on staffing, programs, partnerships, and implementation of state plans.

    Results

    Many of the programs that continued to run after the grant expired operated at reduced capacity, either reaching fewer people or conducting fewer program activities for the same population. Although many states were able to leverage funding from other sources, this shift in funding source often resulted in priorities changing to meet new funding requirements. Evaluation capacity suffered in all states. Nearly all states reported losing infrastructure and capacity to communicate widely with partners. All states reported a severe or complete loss of their ability to provide training and technical assistance to partners. Despite these reduced capacities, states reported several key resources that facilitated continued work on the state plan.

    Conclusions

    Decisions regarding continuation of funding are often dependent on budget constraints, evidence of success, and perceived ability to succeed in the future. Evaluating public health funding decisions may help guide development of best practice strategies for supporting long-term program success.