Reading from the Same Page: New Jersey Drafts Public Health Practice Performance Standards for Local Health Departments

In 1999, the National Partnership for Social Enterprise worked with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to convene a group for rewriting public health practice standards for New Jersey's local health departments.

The Partnership, located in Morristown, N.J., is a nonprofit research group with expertise in health/health care and systems development.

The Problem: When the grant was made, New Jersey's public health system consisted of independent local health departments providing categorical programs without an integrated statewide systems approach. The system neither maximized the development of expertise regionally nor provided for collaborative partnerships between local health departments and community partners.

As part of the statewide effort to reengineer and modernize New Jersey's public health infrastructure, DHSS created a series of major initiatives, one of which was to develop state-of-the-art public health practice performance standards for local health departments.

Key Results

  • The National Partnership for Social Enterprise convened the writing group in a retreat from August 3–5, 1999, in Basking Ridge, N.J. In attendance were 19 participants representing 10 health-related associations and academic institutions in the state. Subsequent meetings for further review and revision were held on November 29, 1999 and September 9, 2000.

    Writing group members were asked to analyze and recommend modifications to a working draft of practice standards, which were based on the 10 Essential Public Health Responsibilities that had been outlined by the 1997–1998 Public Health Task Force convened by DHSS and facilitated by National Partnership for Social Enterprise.

    The Partnership's work was also defined by the task force's determination that to ensure public health capacity based on integrated systems, the local governmental public health system for New Jersey must:

    • Facilitate regional service capacity.
    • Base service delivery requirements on health assessments and risk factor surveys.
    • Emphasize the critical need for local partnerships with hospitals, medical practitioners, community organizations and policy officials.
    • Promote strong community relationships.
    • Allow communities the flexibility they need to meet their local health needs and to adapt quickly as roles and responsibilities change over time.