Public Health Department Accreditation

Setting the Research Agenda

In 2003, the Institute of Medicine called for an examination of the feasibility of accrediting public health departments. Subsequently, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Exploring Accreditation Project began and the Public Health Accreditation Board was established in 2007.

The public health accreditation process, which started in fall 2011 on a voluntary basis, is expected to clarify the public’s expectations of health departments, and lead to higher performance and increased accountability of local departments.

To continue this important work, a practice-based research agenda is needed to address the following:

  • The validity and reliability of the accreditation domains, standards and measures.
  • The current capacity of health departments to meet accreditation standards; the variation across the nation’s environmental, political, structural and service activities; and the determinants of such variation.
  • The extent to which accreditation is related to proximal and distal community health status.
  • The rate of diffusion of accreditation and quality improvement across public health departments.
  • The impact of quality improvement on health department performance.

Most importantly, this research agenda will determine whether the process of preparing for accreditation results in improved performance, as measured by efficiencies, economies, impact on outputs and changes in population health outcomes.