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Public Health Accreditation Overview


What is public health accreditation?

Public health accreditation shares a similar, overall framework with other types of accreditation. At its core, the process of public health department accreditation involves evaluation of the services and operations of public health departments by an external accrediting body to determine if applicable standards are met. If the public health department meets the standards, accredited status is granted by the accrediting agency. While accreditation has been common place for schools, day cares, hospitals, police departments, and other public services for many years, public health departments have not had the opportunity to use the accreditation process as a tool to improve the quality of services and operations until very recently. Fortunately, public health department accreditation is now possible through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). Working with a wide range of stakeholders, PHAB and its partners, including the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), developed of a set of national standards (including Tribal specific standards and measures), a process to measure health department performance against those standards, and the means to recognize those health departments who meet the standards. This is an important step toward strengthening the country’s public health infrastructure through quality improvement and the ongoing identification of best practices.


What does accreditation do for public health departments?  

The goal of the accreditation program is to improve and protect the health of communities by advancing the quality and performance of the public health services in those communities. Accreditation documents the capacity of a public health department to deliver the three core functions of public health (assessment, policy development and assurance) and the Ten Essential Public Health Services. Thus, accreditation gives the public, and other stakeholders, reasonable assurance of the range and quality of the public health services provided. Accreditation declares that the health department has an appropriate mission and purpose and is well positioned to continue to fulfill its mission and purpose. Accreditation does much more than indicate a status however. Accreditation provides an entire framework and process that a public health department can use to assess and improve its services and overall operations.


The 10 Essential Public Health Services

  1. Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
  2. Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
  3. Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues.
  4. Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
  5. Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
  6. Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
  7. Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
  8. Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
  9. Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
  10. Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.
As part of the accreditation process, a public health department will review and assess customer service, workforce development, management practices, and community and partner engagement. As it moves through the accreditation process, a public health department also will identify opportunities to improve its strategic planning and evaluation, which helps to ensure the department will engage in a constant cycle of quality improvement -- delivering services, conducting evaluation, and making adjustments. The accreditation process, in reviewing and assessing performance in all of these areas, promotes greater accountability and transparency of the public health department, system-wide.






Why should Tribes care about public health accreditation?  

Engaging in the process of accreditation can strengthen Tribal public health departments and the services they provide, which will contribute to improved community health. Accreditation can benefit Native communities in various ways, including:

  • Providing performance feedback and promoting quality improvement. The accreditation assessment process provides valuable, measurable feedback to public health programs on their strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Advancing valuable partnerships. The accreditation process promotes strong, active partnerships among public health practitioners, stakeholders and community members in Indian Country and between Tribes and states and/or local public health departments.
  • Reducing health disparities. The accreditation process promotes building and enhancing public health services so that the same level of high quality public health services are available to everyone.
  • Raising awareness of public health services and demonstrating accountability.  The accreditation process requires collaboration, cooperation, and explanation that raise awareness of public health services and their contribution to community health.  Accreditation demonstrates a health department's commitment to continuous quality improvement and its accountability in ensuring services that meet a national standard. 

Tribal governments play a critical role in public health accreditation and quality improvement. Recognizing this, PHAB has worked with NIHB and other Tribal stakeholders to ensure that accreditation standards address the specific needs and challenges of the Tribal public health programs. As PHAB continually tests and evaluates the accreditation standards, measures and procedures, Tribal health programs are encouraged to provide feedback on the different phases of the accreditation process.

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What Is Accreditation