Health Department Accreditation, Not Just a One-Time Recognition
by Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Robin Wilcox, MPA
At the Public Health Accreditation Board, it’s the season for reaccreditation. In March, four health departments became the first in the nation to successfully achieve national reaccreditation, thereby extending their accreditation status for another five years. And there are many more in the process of seeking reaccreditation. To these health departments, accreditation signifies a long-term commitment to quality and performance improvement and to having external validation of their work, as measured against national performance standards.
PHAB’s reaccreditation process is not a repeat of the initial accreditation process. The requirements and process for reaccreditation were designed to encourage accredited health departments to continue to evolve, improve, and advance, thereby becoming increasingly effective at improving the health of the population they serve. Initial accreditation focuses on the health department’s capacity to provide essential public health services. While there are some reaccreditation requirements that measure continued capacity, many others require the health department to describe a systems-approach to conducting their work. Reaccreditation moves away from simply demonstrating that the health department has the required capacities and instead focuses on the use of those capacities, their accountability, and efforts toward continuous quality improvement. This approach leads them to consider the impact of the work they do and to identify ways that they can continue to improve.
Additionally, health departments, for the first time, report on selected population health measures that they are consistently tracking. Having this information nation-wide will allow PHAB to better articulate the relationship between accreditation and population health improvement.
“We are so proud of these health departments for wanting to be the best organizations they can be,” said PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN. “And we are extremely excited to be at a point in the accreditation program where some of the first health departments to achieve initial accreditation through PHAB are now achieving reaccreditation. In doing so, they are ensuring their communities that the value of accreditation is long-term — not a one-time recognition — and that continual improvement is the hallmark of a 21st century organization.”
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.
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. [Full bio]