Leaders of government agencies are responsible for stewardship over taxpayer investments. Stewardship strengthens agency performance that is critical to improving population health. Most industries, including health care, and public enterprises, such as education, have policies for uniform data reporting and financial systems for the application of theoretical analytical techniques to organizations and entire systems. However, this is not a mainstreamed practice in local and state government public health.
The Public Health Uniform National Data System (PHUND$) is a financial information system for local health departments that advances the application of uniform practices to close financial analytical gaps. A 10-year retrospective overview on the development, implementation, and utility of PHUND$ is provided and supported by documented program and agency improvements to validate the analytical features and demonstrate a best practice.
Benefits found from utilizing PHUND$ included reducing financial risks, supporting requests for increased revenues, providing comparative analysis, isolating drivers of costs and deficits, increasing workforce financial management skills, enhancing decision-making processes, and fostering agency sustainability to support continuous improvements in quality and population health. The PHUND$ financial data definitions in the data dictionary provided the structure needed for standardized data collection and confirmed the feasibility of a standardized public health chart of accounts.
PHUND$ analysis provided evidence on the relationship between financial and operational performance, as well as informing strategies for managing risks and improving quality. Such analysis is critical to identifying financial and operational problems and essential to mitigating financial crisis, avoiding disruption of services, and fostering agency sustainability. PHUND$ additionally serves as an instrument that can guide development of standards that measure for agency sound financial management systems.