The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has joined the vanguard of local and state health departments that have gained national accreditation. It is one of only 44 across the nation and the first in Kansas.
The Public Health Accreditation Board, a relatively new organization bent on standardizing and improving the quality of health departments, recently announced that the Johnson County agency and a dozen others across the U.S. had gained accreditation.
The board is an independent organization that administers the national public health accreditation program.
“Each time PHAB’s Accreditation Committee meets, we are excited to see a growing number of health departments for their review,” said PHAB chief executive Kaye Bender. “The group of health departments achieving accreditation this week is our largest group to date. They represent a diverse array of sizes and organizational structures of health departments, all committed to continuous improvement of their work to protect the public’s health.”
The Kansas City, Mo., health department not quite a year ago became one of the first in the nation to gain PHAB accreditation.
A number of other Kansas counties were laying groundwork to gain accreditation as early as 2011 and continue to work toward the goal.
Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County department, said, “we are quite excited around here,” by the news they received from the board.
The department began the process in August 2011, she said, and then had a site visit from the accrediting team in April.
Marsh said the Sedgwick County Health Department and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department might not be far behind in gaining accreditation. Lawrence submitted its application this week and Sedgwick County has its site visit scheduled for next month.
The site visit is one of the last steps in the process.
Accreditation is good for five years, but annual updates must be submitted, Marsh said, “giving them information on areas you continue to work on.”
“Really the whole accreditation process is not just demonstration of capacity but building a robust process by which you are continuously improving,” Marsh said. “To me, that’s one of the greatest benefits.”
Other departments that gained national accreditation in the latest round of approvals are:
“Residents in these 13 jurisdictions can be confident they have access to services and public health protections that meet the PHAB standards of performance,” said Dr. Leslie M. Beitsch, chair of PHAB’s board of directors and chair of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Social Medicine at the Florida State University College of Medicine.
The Minnesota Department of Health became one of five state health departments to achieve national accreditation.
“Accreditation is much more than a public recognition of a department’s effectiveness and adherence to best practices,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota commissioner of health. “This accreditation provides a valuable framework for connecting more closely with our communities, identifying ongoing improvement opportunities, and building even stronger accountability with the public and our partners.”
PHAB-accredited health departments range in size from small health departments serving communities of 37,000 to those serving millions. Hundreds of health departments are preparing to seek national accreditation through the program, which launched in September 2011 after more than a decade in development.
PHAB is jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.