Continuing Momentum for Quality Improvement in Public Health

Nov 3, 2011, 5:38 PM, Posted by NewPublicHealth

Numerous public health leaders across the country credit the Multi-State Learning Collaborative (MLC) for establishing a vision of a quality-improvement (QI) culture in the field and helping pave the way for the launch this year of national, voluntary public health department accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board. The group presented progress on the project this week at the APHA 2011 Annual Meeting.

>>Follow the rest of our APHA 2011 coverage.

Between 2005 and 2011, the project – funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and managed by the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI) – brought together teams of public health departments in 16 states, along with other stakeholders such as institutes, health care providers, and universities to prepare for accreditation and apply QI to important public health goals, such as increasing immunization rates, and implementing procedures to communicate with community members in health emergencies.

On Tuesday, the lessons from the MLC served as the backdrop for a session highlighting a new initiative managed by NNPHI and supported by the Foundation to spread best practices and build capacity among health departments to become accredited and conduct QI activities.

Like the MLC, the new initiative, formally titled "Strengthening the Community of Practice for Public Health Improvement" (COPPHI), will include a series of QI-focused open forum meetings. In addition, health departments will be invited to share and exchange knowledge on the Practice Exchange, a new searchable online database being developed that will organize information from the rapidly growing number of public health quality improvement projects.

As the new initiative gets rolling, Lee Thielen, a consultant on public health issues who played a key role in the MLC, said other state and local health departments should take lessons from the MLC states’ past efforts to develop policies, infrastructure, partnerships, and a learning community to strengthen performance in public health. "This is doable, and it's important," said Thielen, who is a member of the Larimer County (Colorado) Board of Health, and also vice-chair of the Advisory Committee to the Center for Public Health Practice at the Colorado School of Public Health .

Read the press release about COPPHI initiative.

View highlights and resources from the MLC including a new set of issue briefs from NNPHI capturing states' efforts in accreditation and QI, such as the formation in the large and rural state of Kansas of partnerships between small, local health departments to deliver public health services more efficiently and effectively.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.