PHAB learns about public health topics from accredited health department data, Think Tanks, expert panels, the PHAB Data Portal, and more. These learnings feed into the PHAB accreditation program and can be used to advance the public health practice and systems.

Many of these findings and Think Tank reports contributed to the development of Version 2022 of the PHAB Standards & Measures.

Take a dive into different topics that impact the health of our communities.

Health departments have a role in assuring equitable access to needed care and services that promote health. To do this, health departments engage in activities to assess, develop, and improve systems that support the delivery of those services. Key takeaways:

  • Some health departments lack a process for identifying populations who experience barriers to health care services
  • Health departments do not consistently have strategies to improve access or remove barriers to care
Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are preventable, potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years) such as experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in the home or community; or systemic causes such as racism or chronic poverty. ACEs can have lasting, negative effects on health and well-being, such as chronic physical and behavioral health issues. Key takeaways:

  • Health departments have revised or identified health priorities regarding prevention of ACEs within the CHAs/CHNAs, community health improvement plans, or strategic plans
  • Health departments have conducted trainings for local health departments and other agencies on how to increase protective factors for ACE prevention
Administrative competence is the capacity and skills to directly lead or actively engage in health policy development and define strategic direction of public health initiatives. The support and engagement of governing entities is vital to strong public health practice and infrastructure. Key takeaways:

  • Policies and procedures should reflect specific intention to address health equity
  • Human resource policies and procedures should include future, unforeseen circumstances like addressing staff surge capacity and remote work
Health departments have a role in promoting behavioral health at the population level. PHAB convened a Think Tank to discuss that role and explore promising practices related to behavioral health. Key takeaways:

  • Behavioral health is broader than mental health; mental health is broader than mental illness
  • Addressing stigma is a key aspect to promoting behavioral health
  • Many of the social determinants of health are also determinants for behavioral health problems
Health departments prioritize chronic disease prevention and intervention. Screening and treatment are key activities in chronic disease management that are nested within policies and systems. Key takeaways:

  • Some health departments struggle with integrating community input about draft assessments into the community health assessment
  • Health departments may have trouble consulting with community and target groups in developing materials designed to provide information about protecting their health

Climate change is a serious threat to both human and environmental health. Rising temperatures associated with climate change lead to more frequent heat waves that increase the risk of stroke, dehydration, respiratory illnesses, and cardiovascular illnesses. Key takeaways:

  • 39.6% of accredited health departments (109) reported conducting work related to climate change
  • A health department Leveraged local partnerships to develop a tracking system to assess and calculate carbon emissions from fleet vehicles, electricity, natural gas, and water. The results from the tracking system will be used in HD’s Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas and carbon emissions.

Health departments have a responsibility to communicate important health information to their communities. PHAB convened an expert panel and PHAB compiled learning from accredited health departments on the use of communications. Key takeaways:

  • Communications is both a science and an art
  • Certification in public health communications might be a workforce development strategy
PHAB commissioned a paper authored by the Center for Public Health Practice & Research, Georgia Southern University on health department community engagement. Key takeaways:

  • Community engagement should be integral to the health department’s efforts, not just an add-on
  • Staff should develop skills sets that will enhance their ability to work with diverse communities
The effective use of data is central to public health practice and surveillance is core to health department work. Health departments use data to paint a picture of the communities they serve and drive health programs and services. Key takeaways:

  • The health department can play a lead role in championing the governance, open access, and interpretation of how to use and/or analyze community data sets
  • Data creates information, which creates knowledge.

Most health departments provide environmental health services. Environmental health covers a variety of activities, including air and water quality, healthy homes, food safety and more. Key takeaways:

  • Environmental public health has a role in addressing the social determinants of health and health equity
  • Environmental public health depends on robust information systems to conduct their work and sound information infrastructure is needed to make data-informed decisions
PHAB commissioned a paper authored by Human Impact Partners on advancing health equity in health departments’ public health practice. Key recommendations:

  • Be bold and explicit that health equity is central to governmental public health practice
  • Health equity should shape and guide health department strategic plans, quality improvement efforts, and performance measures

It is valuable for health departments to incorporate healthy aging practices into their overall initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting the health of the public, with specific attention to the well-being of older adults and their caregivers. Key takeaways:

  • Adopting a life-course perspective guides public health department work in the healthy aging space, while also giving specific attention to the well-being of older adults and their caregivers
  • Health departments have a role in creating an Age-Friendly Public Health System (AFPHS) and in supporting age-friendly health care systems
A culture of health means a culture of inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). This intentionality promotes ongoing engagement and recruitment of individuals with ID in community health improvement planning, implementation, and policy setting. Key takeaways:

  • Forming an Inclusive Health Coalition (IHC), focused on promoting disability inclusion, is a good method to promote ongoing engagement of individuals with ID
  • Inclusive health is important for a seamless integration of the population with ID in health education and promotion strategies that address issues such as physical activity, obesity, nutrition, and chronic disease

Health departments have a key role in detecting and responding to public health emergencies and being prepared makes the response more efficient. Communications, partnership, workforce, risk assessment and more are core components in emergency preparedness. Key takeaways:

  • PHAB initial accredited health departments (n=386) perform slightly better on preparedness measures compared to all measures.
  • Administration and management of a health department should include consistency in maintaining capacity and competency in emergency preparedness and response
  • Inclusion or integration of health impact assessment efforts and capacity should be considered

Public health practice depends upon timely, efficient, flexible, scalable, and interoperable data acquisition that are provided by public health laboratories. Key Takeaways:

  • Advances in laboratory methods allow for faster processing but also produce significantly larger data sets, requiring new IT and data infrastructure – including systems for data transmission, quality assurance, data standards, and data security
  • The future of public health surveillance will depend more on secondary use of existing data
The production of high-caliber research is integral to contributing to public health’s evidence base. Key takeaways:

  • It is key to evaluate the implementation of population-based interventions
  • Health departments can develop academic health departments – mutually beneficial partnerships between an academic institution and governmental health that provide collaborative opportunities across academia and practice, involving practice-based research, field practice experience for students, and public health practice workforce development

Health departments use public health law in a variety of ways, including formal laws and enforcement, ordinances, and policy work. Key takeaways:

  • The implementation of health in all policies (HiAP) approach addresses a range of policies (e.g., housing, employment, education) that have an impact on health
  • Public health law is one of the main facilitators of population health improvement

American Tribes exercise inherent sovereign powers over their members and territory. Each federally recognized Tribe maintains a unique government-to-government relationship with the U.S. Government, as established historically and legally by the U.S. Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, treaties, and legislation. Key Takeaways:

  • Words like “jurisdiction” and “community” have definitions for Tribes that vary from non-Tribes
  • There is strong integration, partnership, and collaboration between public health and health care/behavioral health within Tribal communities
Quality improvement (QI)/performance management (PM) is a core component of public health accreditation. The promotion of QI and PM are among the most common benefits of accreditation reported by evaluation respondents. Key takeaways:

  • Key components of successful QI projects include logical alignment to aims, quantifiable timelines and achievements, leadership support, and staff buy-in
  • QI/PM should support innovation, changing paradigms, and adaptability

State/Territorial Vital Records/Health Statistics (VRHS) Units provide critical public health functions which are essential in tracking life expectancy and creating effective public health programs in communities. Key takeaways:

  • Data modernization is crucial to accuracy, reliability, and efficiency of monitoring health statistics through vital records.
  • VRHS Units play an important role in contributing data to understand health inequities and disparities through the disaggregation of data by sub-populations, sub-geographic areas, and health conditions.
  • Strengthening the VRHS workforce involves a focus on recruitment, retention, and succession planning, including implementing strategies to build a supportive work environment.

Read the full Summary here.

Combatting turnover and workforce shortages is one of the most significant barriers to a productive public health workforce. Key takeaways:

  • Health departments are encouraged to prioritize comprehensive recruitment, retention, and succession planning efforts
  • Community needs drive health department workforce competency needs. Health departments need to have the capacity to be responsive to the community or shift workforce based on new needs identified