Ten Years of Promises Kept: Celebrating the Impact of Public Health Department Accreditation
by Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN
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.
An important public policy decision was made in 2009 when the executive directors of four major national public health organizations – the American Public Health Association, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Association of County and City Health Officials, and the National Association of Local Boards of Health — filed the paperwork for the incorporation of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Since that time, PHAB — along with its partners and stakeholders — promulgated accreditation standards and measures and a peer-review process. The process has remained voluntary, with the cornerstone continuing to focus on quality improvement and performance management. To date, 211 health departments and one statewide integrated local public health department system have achieved accreditation through PHAB, and another 158 health departments are going through the process. With the November 14, 2017, accreditation decisions, the transformational benefits of being served by a PHAB-accredited health department now reach more than 213 million people across the United States, or nearly 70 percent of the US population.
To receive accreditation through PHAB, a health department or integrated local public health department system must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process. Health departments that achieve accreditation through PHAB are demonstrating great leadership in that they are willing to put their work out for peer review, with the goal of using the feedback obtained during the process to improve the services they provide to their communities. Health departments that were initially accredited are now working on reaccreditation, which will begin in 2018.
During 2017, PHAB is celebrating 10 years of providing accreditation services to state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments. In addition, PHAB continues to seek ways in which to document the impact of accreditation on those health departments and the communities they serve. A three-year evaluation of the impact of accreditation conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that accreditation continues to stimulate and foster health departments’ commitment to quality improvement, performance management, overall accountability, transparency, documentation of capacity to deliver the ten Essential Public Health Services, and improved relationships with partners in the community.
PHAB is especially excited to announce that a special supplement of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice is coming soon. To be published in spring 2018, this supplement will provide scientific articles, commentaries, and case studies related to the impact of accreditation. The supplement will also offer a look forward to future opportunities. The public health community continues to support the use of the accreditation process as a means to make their health departments better and to keep those promises that accreditation standards contain.
Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the President and CEO of the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. Prior to joining PHAB in 2009, she worked in both local and state public health practice in the Mississippi State Department of Health, including serving as Deputy State Health Officer for 12 years. Prior to that, she served as Dean of the University of Mississippi Medical School of Nursing and Associate Vice Chancellor for Nursing for six years. She was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2000.
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