Benefits and Perceptions of Public Health Accreditation Among Health Departments Not Yet Applying

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Abstract

Objective:

To identify the benefits and perceptions among health departments not yet participating in the public health accreditation program implemented by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).

Design:

Quantitative and qualitative data were gathered via Web-based surveys of health departments that had not yet applied for PHAB accreditation (nonapplicants) and health departments that had been accredited for 1 year.

Participants:

Respondents from 150 nonapplicant health departments and 57 health departments that had been accredited for 1 year.

Results:

The majority of nonapplicant health departments are reportedly conducting a community health assessment (CHA), community health improvement plan (CHIP), and health department strategic plan—3 documents that are required to be in place before applying for PHAB accreditation. To develop these documents, most nonapplicants are reportedly referencing PHAB requirements. The most commonly reported perceived benefits of accreditation among health departments that planned to or were undecided about applying for accreditation were as follows: increased awareness of strengths and weaknesses, stimulated quality improvement (QI) and performance improvement activities, and increased awareness of/focus on QI. Nonapplicants that planned to apply reported a higher level of these perceived benefits. Compared with health departments that had been accredited for 1 year, nonapplicants were more likely to report that their staff had no or limited QI knowledge or familiarity.

Conclusions:

The PHAB accreditation program has influenced the broader public health field—not solely health departments that have undergone accreditation. Regardless of their intent to apply for accreditation, nonapplicant health departments are reportedly referencing PHAB guidelines for developing the CHA, CHIP, and health department strategic plan. Health departments may experience benefits associated with accreditation prior to their formal involvement in the PHAB accreditation process. The most common challenge for health departments applying for accreditation is identifying the time and resources to dedicate to the process.

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