• safe motherhood;
  • evaluation;
  • interventions;
  • program

Debate on the evaluation of safe motherhood programs has mainly focused on the outcome or process measure to be used. Less attention is paid to the application of different approaches to evaluation. This article reviews current theories of evaluation and provides examples of the extent to which these theories have been applied in the actual practice of evaluation. Most evaluations use multiple methods and approaches, but the rationale and intention behind these choices are often not made explicit. Factors are identified that need to be taken into consideration when planning and conducting safe motherhood program evaluations. Safe motherhood programs are complex interventions, requiring evaluation by different theoretical approaches and multiple methods. Awareness of these approaches will allow health professionals to plan for evaluation and to use evaluation findings more effectively. If cognizant of the different approaches to evaluation, evaluation frameworks can be developed to improve assessment of the effectiveness of these programs.