Public Health Department Reaccreditation
by Robin Wilcox, MPA
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.
A PHAB-accredited public health department is accredited for five years; when initial accreditation expires, the health department must apply for and achieve reaccreditation in order to maintain accreditation status. The first group of health departments ready for reaccreditation will apply in June of 2018.
Many accreditation organizations implement a process of repeating the initial accreditation requirements for their reaccreditation. However, PHAB determined that repeating the process and requirements of initial accreditation would not further PHAB’s goal “to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing and ultimately transforming the quality and performance of state, local, Tribal and territorial public health departments.” PHAB’s intention is that reaccreditation encourages accredited health departments to become increasingly effective at improving the health status of the population. Therefore, reaccreditation is fundamentally different than initial accreditation in form and required documents.
Initial accreditation demonstrated that the health department has the capacities required to provide the ten Essential Public Health Services. Reaccreditation moves away from simply demonstrating that the health department has the required capacities and, instead, focuses on the use and impact of those capacities, accountability, and continuous quality improvement.
The Domains and the standards for reaccreditation are the same as the standards set forth in the PHAB Standards and Measures, Version 1.5. The measures, requirements, and guidance, however, have been revised for reaccreditation. There are no new topic areas of conformity included in the reaccreditation standards and measures. The measures and required documentation have, however, been developed to advance public health.
PHAB reaccreditation standards and measures are based on a modified self-study model. Reaccreditation requires that the health department provide narratives in response to lists of required descriptions of the health department’s work in the areas of the 12 PHAB Domains as well as a limited number of requirements for documents (plans or examples). This set of requirements will provide the health department an opportunity to describe its overall processes and activities and will enable the PHAB reviewers to understand how a health department operates and functions.
Reaccreditation also requires the reporting of a selection of population health outcomes. The purpose of this requirement is for PHAB is to begin to establish a national data base of selected health outcomes and their associated objectives that accredited health departments have chosen to monitor. The reporting is designed to begin to document how the ongoing work of maintaining accreditation can contribute to better health outcomes. This outcomes information on which the health departments will report will not be used for, or have any impact on, the reaccreditation decision or continued reaccreditation status. It will be used for PHAB’S collective aggregate reporting of the health outcomes and their related objectives that accredited health departments are actively monitoring as part of their work to improve the health status of the jurisdiction they serve.
The PHAB Board of Directors adopted the reaccreditation standards and measures and the reaccreditation process on December 8, 2016. PHAB will release this information in January 2017. Additionally, PHAB will be providing trainings, webinars, and tip sheets to support health departments’ preparation for reaccreditation.
Robin Wilcox, MPA, is the Chief Program Officer of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial public health departments. Ms. Wilcox joined PHAB in August, 2007. At PHAB, Ms. Wilcox manages the implementation of the accreditation process. Ms. Wilcox also leads the revisions of the standards and measures, modifications to the accreditation process, and the development of the reaccreditation process and requirements. Ms. Wilcox’s work at PHAB follows a career of leadership and innovation in a variety of settings including governmental public health, a health care system, academia, local health planning, and hospital association work.