Impact of Public Health Department Accreditation Highlighted Through a Variety of New Information: New Features Add to the Evidence Base Related to the Impact of PHAB’s National Accreditation Program on Public Health

by Teddi D. Nicolaus, BS, and Nicole M. Pettenati, MSLS

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.

More than 220 state, Tribal and local governmental public health departments across the nation have achieved accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), bringing the benefits of PHAB’s rigorous national standards to 70 percent of the U.S. population. Seeking to capture the breadth and depth of accreditation’s impact, PHAB recently invited accredited health departments to write Accreditation Works! stories describing how their health departments have changed as a result of going through the accreditation process. Authors were asked to focus their stories around one of six themes (quality improvement, partnerships, accountability, strengths/weaknesses, workforce, and resources) with an opportunity to list additional benefits at the conclusion. By deadline, 22 health departments had contributed first-hand testimonials describing the benefits national accreditation brings to their health departments and communities. Among their comments:

“Through our accreditation experience, processes like QI that once seemed impractical for a tiny, rural health department, have become not only beneficial, but routine.” Preble County General Health District  

“There was concern that some changes would be put in place to meet accreditation measures and would fade over time. Instead, these improvements have been sustained and continue to evolve or have been modified to be more sustainable as we learn about the best ways to ensure continuous improvement across our Division.” Washington County Public Health Division.

“Accreditation for Garrett County is the living embodiment of our commitment to quality and service to all who live, work, and play in our beautiful mountain community.” Garrett County Health Department  

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Concurrent with Accreditation Works, a special supplement to the May/June 2018 edition of the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice was released this month on the Journal’s website. Thanks in part to funding provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the online edition of the special supplement is being offered with free access on the Journal’s website. Focusing on the impact of accreditation, the supplement shares the experiences of accredited health departments through scientific articles, commentaries, and case reports, thereby further strengthening what we have learned about the impact of accreditation. Example case reports include:

  • One state’s success with using the PHAB Standards and Measures as the framework for the alignment of public health and healthcare priorities statewide.
  • The impact of accreditation on three communities’ efforts to create a culture of health, recognized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • Case reports about the accreditation process strengthening health departments’ use of QI, improvement planning, employee engagement in QI/PM, and response to disease outbreak. In addition to these case reports, scientific articles in the supplement explore the broader impacts of accreditation. For example:
  • Employees of local health departments engaged in the accreditation process report greater job satisfaction and a more positive work environment than do employees in health departments not working towards accreditation.
  • Jurisdictions that contain accredited health departments are more often comprehensive public health systems, which offer a broad array of public health services and engage many partners in delivering those services.

The supplement is now available on the Journal’s website. Accreditation Works! can be accessed on PHAB’s home page. We hope that the variety of information provided through these new features will add to your knowledge about the impact of PHAB’s national accreditation program on public health.

Teddi Nicolaus

Teddi Dineley Nicolaus, BS, is the Communications Manager at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), overseeing efforts to effectively and accurately promote PHAB’s mission and foster a greater understanding of accreditation’s impact. Previously, she worked as a health reporter for The Nation’s Health, the official newspaper of the American Public Health Association in Washington, DC. Her journalism career spans more than two decades as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers and magazines. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. [Full bio]



Nicole Pettenati

Nicole Pettenati, MSLS, is a Research Analyst at the Public Health Accreditation Board, which administers the national, voluntary accreditation program for state, Tribal, local, and territorial health departments. In that role, she supports efforts to build the evidence base around accreditation, analyzing administrative data, locating and organizing literature and resources related to accreditation, and supporting other research efforts. She also provides support to the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI). She was previously a National Library of Medicine Associate Fellow, a medical library leadership program at the National Library of Medicine, and served the second year of that fellowship at The Mayo Clinic as a hospital librarian providing research support for staff. She received her Master of Library Science from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.