PHAB is developing the Pathways Recognition program, a program designed to support performance improvement efforts, strengthen infrastructure, and facilitate public health system transformation and accreditation readiness. The Pathways Recognition Program was designed with small and under resourced health departments in mind to serve as a stepping-stone toward accreditation

PHAB spoke with Claude Jacob, MPH, Public Health Director, San Antonio Metro Health District, PHAB Board Member and Co-lead of the Joint PHAB/NACCHO Board Taskforce on Small Health Department Accreditation. Jacob, formerly the Chief Public Health Officer for the Cambridge Public Health Department, a small health department in Massachusetts, was a key member in providing early guidance to the development of this pivotal program. Many other public health partners including the National Indian Health Board, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have informed the development of Pathways.

How was the idea for Pathways born?
Claude Jacob, MPH: The appetite started for a program like Pathways started long before the pandemic. Questions around the ease and likelihood of smaller health departments meeting the PHAB accreditation standards started to emerge. How are smaller health departments dealing with accreditation? What is the experience of smaller health departments? A taskforce was started between PHAB and NACCHO to take another look at the menu of options for small health departments, answer those questions, and explore alternate products to make it easier for them to get in the mix.

 Why is Pathways important, especially now? How has the pandemic pushed Pathways forward?
CJ: COVID-19 helped make the case. The COVID-19 pandemic showed that we needed to consider other options forward and be more creative in our approach. Early on, there was a concern that PHAB would offer a product that would lower the standard. On one hand, health departments needed flexibility; on the other hand, shouldn’t we consider stepping stones that are more attainable for health departments? What the staff have engineered with Pathways is not in lieu of accreditation, but on the road toward accreditation.

Why is PHAB uniquely positioned to offer Pathways?
CJ: Because PHAB has been in the market for an over a decade, there is credibility in the marketplace as an accrediting body. It is more recognizable for there to be a program like Pathways from PHAB ten years in, rather than starting such a program early on. PHAB has been in the game of ensuring there are standards and measures, QI principles and other practices that health departments can adopt.

 

What is PHAB hoping to accomplish with Pathways? How will this benefit smaller, and under resourced health departments?
CJ: I think PHAB is hoping to accomplish two things with Pathways:

  • Diversify the PHAB portfolio. PHAB is wise to diversify its portfolio and offer products that appeal to wider variety of health departments. It demonstrates that PHAB is sensitive to the scale, plight and labor that goes into a voluntary national accrediting program.
  • Help health departments develop swagger (i.e., confidence). Through the COVID experience, accredited health departments can show some confidence in their process and procedures. If you are battle tested so to speak (i.e., PHAB accredited), you should be able to get through COVID a bit easier. Pathways can help health departments in the same regard.

Pathways is a stepping stone for health departments to get there and develop that swagger and attain accreditation. If you’re trying to cross a stream, you use stepping stones so you don’t get your feet wet.

What else would you like to share?
PHAB has demonstrated the importance of being agile – we needed to adjust. Pathways is innovative. Pathways, by design, is getting health departments on the road toward national accreditation; building confidence toward accreditation. PHAB has demonstrated its ability and agility to respond to the needs of our community – the public health community. Pathways is one such example.