Accreditation is an evaluation of the department’s ability to serve the city and improve the quality of life for the residents, visitors, and those doing business in the community. It is a set of nationally recognized, a practice focused, evidence-based standards. The process of accreditation measures the performance of the departments against those standards. It provides the opportunity to improve processes, health outcomes, management, and workplace development. It is a confirmation for the hospital that the work they do meets the community’s needs.
Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB)
The Public Health Accreditation Board is the national accrediting body for governmental public health practice in the United States. The Public Health National Center for Innovation is the division that designs and researches insights and innovations for the future to inform accreditation standards. To date, there are more than 235 accredited state, local, and tribal health departments plus the entire local Health Department system in Florida alone. There are another 200 who are in the process covering 70% of the United States population.
The Importance of Health Equity
When the Public Health Accreditation Board was established about 13 years ago, one of the fundamental cornerstones of that establishment was health equity. The idea was that high-quality public health services should be available to all the US population regardless of where they live. So, whether it’s a small rural area, a large metropolitan area, or every kind of area in between, residents and people who live in the United States should have access to high-quality public health services.
Since that time, increased emphasis has been added to health equity in the accreditation standards. It is asked of the health departments going through the accreditation process to talk about their health equity, reducing health disparities, and addressing the social determinants of health.
Over 80% of accredited health departments have indicated that they work specifically on health equity. Examples of some of the topics that they address include community transportation systems, access to safe places to engage in physical activity, and of course access to healthful food.
Once the health department is accredited, they submit an annual report to the public health accreditation board to maintain its accreditation status. They particularly talk about developing their capacity to address health equity. Examples of some of the things that are reported include the development of an internal health equity office or division, embedding health equity in their policies, and importantly, expanding and deepening their partnerships with their community.
Promoting Health Equity
PHAB is doing several things to encourage health departments to build resilience and health equity. One of those is the development of the Public Health National Center for Innovations. A lot of the innovation work takes place by looking at what the state of the field is with regard to health equity, developing new ways to address it, and advancing those in other health departments across the country.
This is the strategic framework that is followed by some of the hospitals. By knowing that they need to shift investments, from clinical care setting primarily high acuity care that’s costly to prevention-oriented primary care community services. They mostly have three leading priorities to accomplish that. Addressing social, economic, and environmental determinants of health, eliminating disparities of health, and promoting health equity. So regardless of the zip code, you’re from, you have access to living the healthiest life you can live in the healthiest community that’s achieving health equity. This also includes ensuring access to quality health services for all, including the vulnerable population.
The public health accreditation board is committed to continuing to encourage health departments to engage in health equity work and transform public health. Health departments can develop and utilize community assets, strengthen community resilience, and build community social capital. Most importantly they can strengthen and deepen authentic and effective partnerships with their community to address health equity and improve community health. The continued work and partnership of PHAB with the health departments will ensure that no matter where somebody lives or who they are, they have access to the same level and quality of public health services.