Since its inception in 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Public Health Performance Standards Program (NPHPSP) has helped lay the groundwork for public health quality improvement (QI) activities at the state and local levels. This article describes how the NPHPSP has promoted QI through its instruments and guidance, and how it has continually strengthened the focus on QI over the years.
The NPHPSP Version 2 instruments and enhanced guidance have been designed to more strongly reinforce QI and catalyze the transition from assessment to action. Despite positive reports from some state and local users that emphasize the value the NPHPSP holds for those that do successfully move forward with improvement actions, 2005 evaluation results from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials indicated challenges in transitioning the assessments results into performance improvement. More recent data are promising: a 2009 post-assessment survey of early Version 2 respondents indicates that the majority (75% of all respondents) report action in one or more performance improvement steps. The NPHPSP has played an important role in fostering QI in many states and local jurisdictions. Furthermore, its experiences and lessons learned in supporting QI have helped to pave the way for other initiatives, such as the emerging national accreditation system for state and local health departments.