Fifteen Key Facts About PHAB Accreditation

by Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Jessica Kronstadt, MPP

Did you know that, just by reading the May/June Supplement of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, you can learn a lot about the value and impact of health department accreditation? The supplement is chock full of tidbits of information, but fifteen of those are highlighted here.

  1. Accreditation is related to enhanced engagement in quality improvement and performance management [Chapman] [Mason]. Research has shown:
    1. 92% of HDs accredited one year agreed or strongly agreed that accreditation had strengthened the culture of QI within their public health department. [Siegfried et al].
    2. Local health departments accredited by June 2017 and those in process reported more formal QI activities and showed greater improvements with QI/PM implementation over time than LHDs not undertaking accreditation [Beitsch et al].
  2. Accredited health departments engage with a broad array of partners in working to improve the health of their communities, including hospitals and health care organizations, nonprofits, education, businesses, and faith-based organizations [Kronstadt et al].
  3. Collaboration between health departments and health care can be enhanced through the accreditation process [Tilgner et al] [Cain and Collins].
  4. Jurisdictions that contain accredited health departments appear to offer a broader array of public health services, involve more partners in the delivery of those services, and enjoy a higher percentage of comprehensive public health systems. [Ingram et al].
  5. In addition to partnering with other sectors, 90% of state health departments report greater collaboration across departments in their agency as a benefit of accreditation [Kittle and Liss-Levinson] and accredited state and local health departments describe strengthened internal and external communications and more formal partnerships with other health departments [Ishcomer et al].
  6. Accreditation has also accelerated health departments efforts related to workforce development [Bialek] & [Dunn] and strategic planning [Saari].
  7. Employees at local health departments engaged in accreditation reported higher levels of job satisfaction and a more positive work environment [Ye et al].
  8. Preparing for accreditation can bolster a health department’s resilience as demonstrated, for example, in how Florida responded to the Zika outbreak [Philip et al].
  9. Public health department accreditation aligns with many initiatives to improve health, including:
    1. The Culture or Health framework, particularly with its emphasis on equity, cross-sector collaboration, and social determinants of health [Russo] [Mason et al] [Lopez] [Smith].
    2. The programmatic work of health departments [Corso and Thomas].
    3. Accreditation of schools and programs in public health and certification of public health professionals [Foster et al].
    4. Sustainable community development [Varnadore].
    5. Health department efforts to take an inclusive approach to health [Fulford and Bender].
  10. Ongoing support from CDC and RWJF [Corso and Russo] and input from the field have been critical in PHAB’s development and ongoing improvement.
  11. The PHAB Standards & Measures can help Tribal health departments as they define what is meant by public health in Indian country and work “to improve, expand, and enhance the quality of their services and the health of their communities.” [Canniff]
  12. Accreditation calls on health departments to employ a health equity lens in their work with their communities [Wooten et al].
  13. Accreditation helps strengthen effective relationships between health departments and the governing entities [Nicolaus] [Halverson et al].
  14. Even health departments who have not yet applied for accreditation reference the Standards and Measures, particularly in developing CHAs, CHIPs, and strategic plans [Heffernan et al].
  15. Fostering public health innovation is one way of extending accreditation’s work to advance the quality and performance of health departments [Fisher].

Dr. Kaye Bender

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.


Jessica Kronstadt, MPP

Jessica Kronstadt, MPP, is the Director of Research and Evaluation at the Public HealthAccreditation 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.