Findings from the 10-Year Evaluation of Our Health Leadership Fellows Program

This post originally appeared on the Connecticut Health Foundation's blog, to view the original post click here

BACKGROUND (by Yolanda):  In late 2014 the Connecticut Health Foundation (CT Health) commissioned an in-depth evaluation of its Health Leadership Fellows Program (HLFP). This signature program had been running for a decade and it was time to determine its impact and effectiveness.

As a learning organization, CT Health believed it was important to undergo this important process. While several foundation-led leadership programs across the country reached a similar milestone around the same time, we understand from our philanthropic colleagues that commissioning an outcomes evaluation while pausing the program to reflect and redesign is somewhat unusual. We engaged the Innovation Network, a non-profit evaluation firm that has been working with us since 2010, to conduct the study.

EVALUATION SUMMARY (by Johanna and Katherine): In the course of the project, along with CT Health, we identified a set of research questions to guide the evaluation. These questions were predominantly focused on whether or not the Health Leadership Fellows Program fulfilled three goals:

  1. To develop the knowledge and skills of individuals in the areas of health equity and leadership, and for individuals to apply these assets to their professional development.
  2. To increase the number of people of color who are at the table when decisions or policies are being made that impact health.
  3. To provide Fellows with the knowledge and skills to change systems and policies through Fellows’ primary place of employment, other professional roles, and/or volunteer activities.

To determine whether or not the program achieved the above goals, we spoke with a wide range of people who were familiar with the program and the field of health equity more broadly in Connecticut. We incorporated the perspectives and feedback of at least six foundation staff and HLFP faculty, the insights of 135 HLFP alumni fellows (70% of all fellows), and recommendations from four external experts. We compiled and compared information about 13 comparable leadership programs to inform our evaluation and recommendations.

Main Findings:

As a result of the data we collected, we learned that the fellows program has fulfilled the first two goals – to develop knowledge and skills; to increase number of people of color at decision making tables.  The HLFP has not yet fulfilled the third goal – to provide Fellows with knowledge and skills to change systems and policies.

Additional key findings:

  • Approximately 93% of fellows still reside in or contribute to health equity in Connecticut.
  • 70% of Fellows are people of color (African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American).
  • Generally, fellows are working on health equity frequently (71% of Fellows work on health equity at least once a month or more frequently).
  • Fellows expressed a desire to learn more about: the intersectionality of race and health equity, and systems change (including policy change) for health equity.
  • The HLFP network was described as:  A community, a secret handshake, and a shared language. The relationships formed during the Program are deeply valued by Fellows and durable long after the graduation of each class.
  • A significant majority (79%) of Fellows perceived that the program made a strong or very strong contribution to their ability to take a greater role in health equity.
  • 89% of Fellows work on health equity through professional roles, 45% of fellows work on health equity through volunteer roles (professional or personal), and 37% of fellows work on health equity through personal roles.

We invite you to click through details of the evaluation here:


As a result of the data and findings, recommendations were made to CT Health for how to strengthen the program, to clarify the contribution of the program to the foundation’s strategic plan, and to further develop the network. These recommendations have been taken up and further developed by CT Health.

CT HEALTH’S RESPONSE AND NEXT STEPS (by Yolanda):  We learned a great deal from the evaluation about the important contributions the HLFP has made to health equity in the state over the past decade. With the findings and recommendations from the evaluation, we have redesigned our program to focus on public policy advocacy and adaptive leadership to advance systems change for health equity. The new program will begin in January 2017. CT Health will share more details on the new program in the coming months as we begin recruiting prospective participants.

Secondly, we have partnered with Health Equity Solutions, a new health equity advocacy organization and CT Health grantee, to work more intensively with the HLFP alumni network.  Our fantastic fellows are promoting health equity everyday in their organizations and communities. And we know there is so much more we can accomplish together.

We are excited about this next phase of our leadership program!

About the author(s)

Director of Programs
Fund the People

Innovation Network

Research Assistant
Innovation Network