Accreditation and recognition provide a means for health departments to build capacity in key public health areas. PHAB offers two programs for health departments to be recognized for meeting national public health standards.

Accreditation and Pathways Recognition support performance improvement efforts and can be part of a health department’s transformation journey.  Each is built on evidence-based standards that allow health departments to demonstrate performance and accountability to communities, policymakers, and other stakeholders.  PHAB can help interested applicants determine which program is right for them.


The national accreditation program assesses a health department’s capacity to carry out the 10 Essential Public Health Services and the Foundational Capabilities. 

Accreditation promotes public trust and demonstrates an ongoing commitment to quality and performance improvement. 

Pathways Recognition

The Pathways Recognition program assesses a health department’s capacity to carry out the Foundational Capabilities. 

Pathways is ideal for smaller, under-resourced health departments that are not yet ready to apply for accreditation but want to demonstrate their public health capacity and/or move toward accreditation.

Impact & Benefits of

Accreditation & Recognition

Types of Accreditation & Recognition


It is important to check your health department’s eligibility before considering accreditation or Pathways Recognition. Refer to the Policy for each program for more details on eligibility.

  Accreditation Pathways Recognition
State Health Department  
Local Health Department
Tribal Health Department
Territorial Health Department
Military Installation Department of Public Health
International Organizations  

What is the difference between Accreditation and Pathways Recognition?

PHAB accreditation is a process to assess and recognize health departments’ performance against a set of national standards. PHAB Pathways Recognition is a process for health departments not yet ready for accreditation, to be assessed and recognized against a subset of those national standards. 

Achievement of initial accreditation or Pathways Recognition provide assurance that the health department has the Foundational Capabilities necessary to serve their community. Both programs support performance improvement efforts, strengthen infrastructure, and facilitate public health system transformation, including state-based improvement efforts.

While there are some common elements of the programs, there are also notable differences.

  • Accreditation status lasts for five years. Health departments demonstrate ongoing accountability  through annual reporting to PHAB and the reaccreditation process.  Pathways Recognition is awarded at a point in time.

  • Initial accreditation Version 2022 is comprised of 87 measures, while Pathways Recognition is comprised of 34 Foundational Capability measures from initial accreditation.  

  • Review processes for accreditation, reaccreditation and Pathways Recognition are largely the same, and consist of peer reviews from trained public health practitioners.  However, the Pathways Recognition process does not include a site visit or an ACAR (action plan) process. 

  • Pathways Recognition can be used as a milestone as health departments prepare for initial accreditation