The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed the first national, voluntary accreditation system to improve the quality and efficiency of public health services. To apply to become accredited under this system, all state, local, regional and tribal public health agencies must first complete three prerequisites: a community health assessment, a community health improvement plan and a strategic plan.
In advance of PHAB opening its doors to applications from health departments in September 2011, RWJF commissioned a study led by Lee Thielen, M.P.A., and Marilyn Leff, M.S.W., M.S.P.H., Ph.D., to estimate the anticipated costs for health agencies of all sizes to complete these prerequisites. The report, entitled Ready, Set, Go: The Costs of Prerequisites for National Voluntary Accreditation of Public Health Agencies, finds that these costs will vary depending on the total population under an agency’s jurisdiction, the size of an agency’s staff and budget, and whether the agency has previously completed assessments for state or local accreditation programs. Among its recommendations are the following:
- State public health agencies can provide financial and logistical support to local and tribal public health agencies pursuing accreditation. State-level support could include providing data, technical assistance and financial incentives.
- Public health agencies can pursue a variety of cost-saving initiatives when completing the three prerequisites necessary for accreditation consideration. Such initiatives may include utilizing students from local universities who are studying health assessment and planning and may benefit from practical experience; partnering with area hospitals and public health institutes; and publishing completed documents online in lieu of printing paper copies.
- Local health departments can identify staff members who have expertise in planning, assessment and evaluation and, where possible, work with academic partners.