The case reports that follow highlight the journey of accreditation through the lens of 11 health departments at various stages in the process. These “experiences from the field” are an important part of this accreditation issue because they illustrate the ways in which Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) accreditation is meaningful for health departments of all sizes and structures. These case examples were collected, formatted, and reviewed by the issue editors to summarize early accreditation successes. These health departments represent the diverse characteristics of health departments across the country (Figure). Case reports from 6 local and 5 state health departments were submitted. Invitations to tribal and territorial health departments to submit case reports were extended, but because of a variety of circumstances, none were submitted. Local health departments that submitted case reports serve populations ranging from approximately 58 000 to 2.7 million people; similarly, states serve populations ranging from 1.3 million to 9.5 million people. Furthermore, these health departments reflect early efforts of agencies as they prepare for accreditation through PHAB.1 Two of the health departments that submitted case reports have achieved PHAB accreditation, 4 are actively in the process of acquiring PHAB accreditation, and 5 are conducting preparation activities.
In these case reports, health departments document their accomplishments and challenges and also provide advice to other agencies seeking to obtain PHAB accreditation. Despite the differences these health departments experience in their journeys, several themes emerged. First, the role of leadership is critical. Many of the health departments underscored the need for leadership support and buy-in and offered strategies for engaging leaders. Second, the need for ongoing communication and engagement of staff and community partners is a central component of the accreditation process. Having dedicated staff and using a team approach can help ensure that the agency's accreditation activities are routinely communicated, inclusive, and transparent. This collaborative approach also provides opportunities for alignment among health departments and communities. Third, a health department's preparation activities require a thoughtful and honest review of efforts, typically accomplished through a self-assessment process that necessitates familiarity with PHAB standards and measures.2 Preparation activities are facilitated by a systematic approach to manage and store documents that reflect examples demonstrating activities aligned with each measure. Finally, the case reports call attention to the link between accreditation and quality improvement, recognizing that building and sustaining a culture of quality improvement is ongoing work that does not end with accreditation.
1. Bender K, Kronstadt J, Wilcox R, Lee TP. Overview of the Public Health Accreditation Board. J Public Health Manag Pract. 2014;20(1):4–6.