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Pursuing Public Health Accreditation

A Focus on HOW

Carman, Angela L. DrPH; Scutchfield, F. Douglas MD, FACPM, FAAFP; McGladrey, Margaret L. PhD; Vorbeck, Jonathan MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September/October 2019 - Volume 25 - Issue 5 - p 431–439
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000884
Research Reports: Practice Full Report

Introduction: Balancing competing imperatives of conserving scarce resources while improving organizational performance and community health, many local health departments (LHDs) have decided to pursue national, voluntary public health accreditation as a guide to improvement, but how to do so in the most efficient way possible remains a question for many.

Methods: This study employed a participatory action research approach in which LHD directors and accreditation coordinators from 7 accredited and 3 late-stage accreditation ready Kentucky LHD jurisdictions participated. Participants organized a set of accreditation deliverables into a chronological sequencing of each site's accreditation readiness process, which was then coded by researchers to identify similarities and differences.

Results: All participating jurisdictions had all-hazards emergency operations plans and public health emergency operations plans while none had workforce development plans, quality improvement plans, or performance management plans before launching accreditation readiness activities. Also identified were the number of accreditation deliverables attempted, simultaneously, by each site and the importance of specific deliverables having a singular focus. Sequences of work on specific deliverables by the majority of participants included completing work on the quality improvement plan immediately, followed by the performance management plan, the Community Health Assessment before the Community Health Improvement Plan, and a strategic plan, followed by a workforce development plan. Factors influencing accreditation readiness processes, elements for sustaining processes, and lessons learned throughout the pursuit of accreditation were also provided by participants.

Conclusions: Recognizing the impact of staff availability, staff skill sets, training, and available financial resources on the pursuit of accreditation, participants determined that aggregating lessons learned into a flowchart highlighting the interconnectedness of accreditation deliverables could produce a road map for LHDs. Accreditation deliverables could be attempted in a logical, efficient order particularly valuable to small LHDs with limited resources and yet adaptable for those jurisdictions able to devote more resources to the process.

Health Behavior & Society, University of Kentucky, College of Public Health, Lexington, Kentucky (Dr Carman); Health, Services Research and Policy, Colleges of Public Health and Medicine, Lexington, Kentucky (Dr Scutchfield); Department of Sociology and Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (Dr McGladrey); and Jessamine County Health Department, Nicholasville, Kentucky (Mr Vorbeck).

Correspondence: Angela L. Carman, DrPH, Health Behavior & Society, University of Kentucky, College of Public Health, 111 Washington Ave, Room 113C, Lexington, KY 40536 (

Funding was received from Kentucky Department for Public Health for this project.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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