Providing Assistance to Public Health Agencies Preparing for Accreditation

An RWJF National Program

Program Dates: September 2007 to August 2011

Field of Work: Public health accreditation

Problem Synopsis: To protect and promote the health of people in communities nationwide, public health departments must use their limited resources wisely. Establishing consistent standards and motivating quality improvement through accreditation of local, state, and tribal health departments will ensure that every community has access to the best safeguards, programs, and services—ones that can make a difference in people’s health. Health departments need help preparing for accreditation and learning about quality improvement.

Synopsis of the Work: The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) provided technical assistance and funding to help local, state, and tribal health departments prepare for accreditation. The National Indian Health Board developed a strategy for public health accreditation in Indian Country and provided technical assistance to promote and facilitate tribal participation.

The organizations worked together and with the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) to align accreditation for local, state, and tribal health departments. They also collaborated to support the health departments participating in a beta test of public health accreditation and the quality improvement (QI) projects that followed. The National Association of Local Boards of Health was involved in some of this work.

Key Results:

  • Thirty public health departments—19 local, eight state, and three tribal—participated in the public health accreditation beta test. Using the results of the self-assessment that was part of the accreditation process, each health department designed and implemented a QI project in an area where improvement was needed:
    • Overall, beta test sites and site visitors had very positive reviews for the accreditation processes and materials. Despite the amount of time and money that participating in the beta test required, sites reported a positive attitude about their experience. In response to a survey several months after the last site visit:
      • 28 of the 30 participants strongly agreed with the statement "Our health department made the right decision to apply to be a beta test site."
      • The remaining two health departments agreed with the statement.
    • The majority of beta test participants indicated that only minor changes to the piloted accreditation processes were needed prior to the national launch of public health accreditation. Based on the evaluation findings and the informal feedback, the Public Health Accreditation Board revised the public health accreditation process and standards to provide greater clarity, sharpen some of the standards and measures, reduce redundancy, and simplify requirements.
    • Participating health departments increased their focus on QI after participating in the beta test and QI projects.
    • The QI projects emphasized the importance of QI in public health and informed the development of the accreditation process and the standards related to QI.
  • The National Indian Health Board developed a strategic plan outlining recommendations and strategies for public health accreditation in Indian Country and provided technical assistance to the Public Health Accreditation Board to adapt national accreditation materials and processes to tribal public health delivery.