Accreditation and Multi-Sector Collaborations to Promote Health
by Jessica Kronstadt, MPP
Focus on Accreditation and Innovation addresses current issues related to the Public Health Accreditation Board’s national public health department accreditation program, and the Public Health National Center for Innovations. This series highlights the experiences and perspectives of accredited health departments and explores topics related to the Standards and Measures, research and evaluation findings, and the latest innovations in public health practice.
One of the core functions of public health is to assess the health of the community. Hand-in-hand with that assessment is coordinated work with other organizations to address community needs. Recognizing this vital role for health departments, a collaborative community health assessment (CHA) and community health improvement plan (CHIP) are two of the cornerstone requirements in the national voluntary accreditation program of state, Tribal, local and territorial health departments administered by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). This post discusses what we have learned by analyzing our data and hearing directly from health departments about the strong link between accreditation and multi-sector collaborations to promote health.
To emphasize the importance of working with partners from different sectors, when PHAB released Version 1.5 of the Standards and Measures, it included additional requirements to consider “addressing social determinants of health, causes of higher health risks and poorer health outcomes of specific populations, and health inequities.” For health departments to effectively address these upstream factors that affect health, they need to leverage all the resources available in their communities, which may entail teaming up with some unconventional partners.
An analysis of the CHAs of the first 53 accredited health departments confirms that health departments are indeed engaging numerous partners as they work to understand the needs and assets in their communities. All of the CHAs reviewed were conducted in collaboration with hospitals or other health care organizations and 85% or more described partnerships with each of the following: educational institutions, service organizations, and businesses. Other partner organizations include civic and religious groups, housing and criminal justice organizations, and the list goes on.
Once accredited, health departments continue to work with their partners to identify and address the health needs in their communities. A review of annual reports submitted to PHAB after they are accredited reveals that many health departments describe taking a “collective impact” approach to tackling persistent issues related to improving access to health care, preventing violence and adverse childhood experiences, and promoting healthy lifestyles, among other areas.
When reflecting on how accreditation has changed their organizations, several health departments describe the impact related to strengthening partnerships in their jurisdictions. For example, one health department talks about integrating their CHA process with community health needs assessment being completed by a local nonprofit hospital. Another health department describes a “greater focus on broader accountability among partners.”
Currently, 150 health departments across the country, as well as the integrated local public health system in one centralized state, have been accredited. As more health departments embark upon the journey, additional stories are likely to emerge of health departments working in partnership with others to promote the health of their communities.
For further reading, consider these related articles from the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice:
- The proof’s in the partnerships: Are Affordable Care Act and Local Health Department accreditation practices influencing collaborative partnerships in community health assessment and improvement planning?
Jessica Kronstadt, MPP, is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), overseeing efforts to evaluate the accreditation program and to promote research to build the evidence base around accreditation. Previously, she has conducted research for NORC at the University of Chicago, the Public Health Foundation, the National Academy for State Health Policy, and the Urban Institute. She received her Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University. [Full bio].