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The Impact of Public Health Department Accreditation: 10 Years of Lessons Learned

Kronstadt, Jessica, MPP; Bender, Kaye, PhD, RN, FAAN; Beitsch, Leslie, MD, JD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue - p S1–S2
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000769
Editorial

Public Health Accreditation Board, Alexandria, Virginia (Ms Kronstadt and Dr Bender); and Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine, Center for Medicine and Public Health, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida (Dr Beitsch).

Correspondence: Jessica Kronstadt, MPP, Public Health Accreditation Board, 1600 Duke St, Ste 200, Alexandria, VA 22314 (JKronstadt@phaboard.org).

The authors acknowledge Liza Corso and Pamela Russo for their assistance in coordinating this supplement, as well as Mary Davis and Brenda Joly for their role in editing the case studies.

The information contained in this article reflects the opinions of the authors and does not represent official PHAB board policy.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

The July/August 2007 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice described the emerging national accreditation agenda, promising strategies, and the link to quality improvement (QI) and performance management for all public health departments in the United States.1 That same year, the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) was incorporated and began its developmental journey as the national accreditation body for state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments.2 , 3 During this decade, more than 200 health departments have been accredited, and about that many more are officially going through the process. Accreditation remains voluntary, yet the uptake among health departments has been robust, with accredited health departments in 45 states and the District of Columbia.4

After 10 years of operations (5 years conferring accreditation), PHAB coordinated this supplement to assess the impact that accreditation has had and is having on public health practice. The supplement has 4 sections: Quality Improvement and Performance Management; Partnerships; Administration and Management; and Future Directions. The first 3 reflect broad areas in which health departments have reported benefits from accreditation, while the last explores how accreditation is evolving to reflect emerging public health issues and initiatives. Each section contains a mix of scientific articles, commentaries, and case reports highlighting the experiences of accredited health departments.

Strengthening health departments' engagement in quality improvement and performance management has consistently been listed by accredited health departments as one of the leading benefits of accreditation.5 In this issue, Siegfried et al6 describe evaluation findings indicating that 90% of health departments accredited for 1 year report that accreditation has strengthened the QI culture in their agencies. Congruently, an analysis of data from 2010 to 2016 reveals that accredited local health departments have made substantial progress in incorporating QI in their operations, compared with local health departments that have not yet begun the formal accreditation process.7

The second section showcases accreditation's impact on fostering partnerships. A review of the community health assessments and community health improvement plans of accredited health departments,8 as well as an analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Public Health Systems,9 provides insights on accredited health departments' networks of partners from multiple sectors. As is reflected in the commentaries in this section, the PHAB requirements emphasize collaborating with an array of organizations to tackle pressing community health priorities and to foster health equity.

Workforce and governance are 2 themes that are discussed throughout the “Administration and Management” section. Ye et al10 report on findings from a survey of employees at local health departments suggesting that those working in accredited health departments experienced higher job satisfaction levels. Another piece provides the perspectives of governing entity members on the role accreditation plays in bolstering health department operations.11 Accompanying case studies provide practitioners' viewpoints on the significance of accreditation in strategic planning12 and building resilience.13

This supplement concludes by looking ahead. The “Future Directions” section explores the relationships between accreditation and public health program areas,14 as well as how the PHAB standards may be influencing health departments that have not yet applied for accreditation.15 A series of case studies highlights how accreditation can serve as a catalyst to advance health departments on their journey to a culture of health.16

Ten years of lessons learned while developing and administering national public health department accreditation, in collaboration with thousands of stakeholders and partners, have resulted in some promising observations about the impact of accreditation. Although much remains to be done to ensure that accreditation evolves as public health practice and standards change, the success of this consensus-based approach to demonstrating the capacity of health departments to serve their jurisdictions is off to an auspicious first decade.

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References

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