Improving Knowledge of Public Health Accreditation Through a Group Vetting Session of a Practice-Based Research Network

According to an article detailing efforts to improve knowledge of a new accreditation process for local health departments, a small audience of motivated, informed local health officials from Kentucky found a “group vetting session” did increase their understanding. Consequently, they had overwhelmingly favorable views of the draft standards.

A 1988 report that found the U.S. public health system suffered from “decades of neglect and disarray” has led to new voluntary accreditation of public health departments, starting in 2011. After a lengthy process to develop draft accreditation standards, advocates are now educating local health officials on the process, assessing their reactions to the draft standards and encouraging local departments to apply for accreditation. In Kentucky, nine local health department directors, along with other state and local public health personnel, participated in a group vetting session, responding to questions through an electronic audience response system which allowed participants to answer anonymously. Participants also were sent pre- and post-session surveys to measure changes in their knowledge and attitude.

Key Findings:

Although this group of local health directors were already well-informed and motivated, the audience reported an increase in their understanding of the standards after the vetting session.

The response to 28 of 31 draft standards was overwhelmingly positive.

All of the directors, both before and after the session, indicated their departments were highly likely to seek accreditation.

In open discussion, a consistent concern was the ability of smaller health departments to meet the standards, a concern which could be met through regional accreditations.

These observations are limited by the small number of participants. But the study suggests an open group vetting session may be an effective way to increase awareness of these accreditation standards and help directors prepare their departments for the process.