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Public health departments can now strive for national accreditation more typical of universities and hospital systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is supporting a national voluntary accreditation program for public health agencies.
The program will improve the quality of services delivered by public health agencies as they work toward accreditation and, when they attain accreditation, reassure the public and officials that their health department is a peak performer. For a public health department to be accredited, it must meet stringent requirements for 10 essential areas of public health activities respectively and demonstrate a commitment to constant improvement. Health departments will receive their voluntary accreditation from the new nonprofit Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).
"Accreditation is a major accomplishment for a health department. It means that it is addressing key community health problems," says CDC director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. "Just as the public expects hospitals, law enforcement agencies and schools to be accredited so should they come to expect public health departments."
This new accreditation program complements efforts of the National Public Health Improvement Initiative (NPHII). NPHII advances health departments efforts in preparing for accreditation. This initiative is being funded through the Affordable Care Act and supported through CDC's Office for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support. NPHII currently provides a total of $42.5 million to 76 state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments.
Thirty health departments have already tested the process of national accreditation and local officials are pleased so far with their results.
"Serving as a test site for the accreditation process has been immensely rewarding for Oklahoma," says Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma state health commissioner. "It has provided us the unique opportunity to provide feedback to PHAB, and also use the information for our own immediate improvement purposes. For example, in assessing our performance against the national standards, we saw quality improvement opportunities in our engagement of the community and collaborative planning processes. In just seven short months, we've undertaken efforts that have yielded dramatic increases in the number of community partners attending local health planning meetings as well as improvements in the effectiveness of the meetings, as rated by the local coalition partners."
Dr. Paul K. Halverson, a Public Health Accreditation Board member and Arkansas state health officer, says, "A national accreditation program will position public health departments to navigate the changes needed to transform public health to meet new challenges. In fact, experiences in North Carolina, a pioneer in this area, have demonstrated that accreditation and the improvement actions it catalyzes led to health departments that were better prepared to deal with the H1N1 influenza outbreaks. The NPHII funds will provide our health department with needed resources for developing a continuous quality improvement focus and to prepare for national accreditation at the department."
"For too long, quality improvement has been under-recognized in public health for its value in achieving change and improving results," says Dr. Judith A. Monroe, CDC's deputy director and director for state, tribal, local and territorial support. "CDC has been a long-standing partner in supporting accreditation, and we are looking forward to what more can be accomplished with ACA funding."
The 30 agencies that tested the accreditation process include:
Local Health Departments
* Coconino County Health Department (Ariz.)
* County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (Calif.)
* Miami-Dade County Health Department (Fla.)
* Norton County Health Department (Kan.)
* Franklin County Health Department (Ky.)
* City of Portland Public Health Division (Maine)
* Amherst Public Health Department, Northampton Health Department, and the Quabbin Health District (Mass.)
* Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department (Minn.)
* Public Health Solutions District Health Department (Neb.)
* Carson City Health & Human Services (Nev. )
* Township of Bloomfield Department of Health & Human Services (N.J.)
* Tioga County Health Department (N.Y.)
* The Public Health Authority of Cabarrus County, Inc (N.C.)
* Central Valley Health District (N.D.)
* Mahoning County District Board of Health (Ohio)
* Comanche County Health Department (Okla.)
* Deschutes County Health Services (Ore.)
* Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services (Texas)
* Tooele County Health Department (Utah)
State Health Departments
* Florida Department of Health
* Iowa Department of Public Health
* Michigan Department of Community Health
* Mississippi State Department of Health
* Ohio Department of Health
* Oklahoma State Department of Health
* Washington State Department
* Wyoming Department of Health
Tribal Health Departments
* The Navajo Nation Division of Health (Ariz.)
* Keweenaw Bay Indian Community-Dept. of Health & Human Services (Mich.)
* Cherokee Nation Health Service (Okla.)