Pathways Recognition Program

PHAB’s vision is a high-performing governmental public health system that supports all people living their healthiest lives. To foster performance improvement among all health departments, PHAB is developing a Pathways Recognition Program to launch in 2022 as another option to encourage health departments on their quality and performance improvement journeys. Pathways may be ideal for health departments that are not yet ready to apply for accreditation for reasons unique to the department, but still want to enhance performance improvement and other capabilities.

The Pathways Recognition Program is a formal response by PHAB to address the field’s aspirations for a recognition process that meets the needs of eligible health departments not yet ready or positioned to pursue PHAB accreditation. By engaging in this program, eligible health departments will be assessed on their demonstration of a subset of measures from the forthcoming Version 2022 PHAB Accreditation Standards & Measures.

The purpose of the PHAB Pathways Recognition Program is to:

  1. Support performance improvement efforts, strengthen infrastructure, and facilitate public health system transformation, including state-based improvement efforts,
  2. Serve as a performance improvement milestone for local, Tribal, and territorial health departments not yet ready to apply for PHAB accreditation, and
  3. Facilitate accreditation readiness for eligible health departments intending to use the Pathways as a step toward a future accreditation application.

Once recognized, health departments that choose to pursue accreditation can then work toward demonstrating conformity with accreditation measures that are not reviewed in the Pathways Recognition Program. Participation in the Pathways Recognition Program will not be a prerequisite of full accreditation – direct pursuit of full PHAB accreditation will always remain an option.

PHAB’s exploration and development of the Pathways Recognition Program is a step toward addressing feedback from health departments across the country, including lessons learned and research about small health departments that have achieved accreditation. PHAB wants to hear from health department stakeholders about what program design elements will provide the most value to health departments that are not yet ready to apply for accreditation but may want to engage in a recognition program like Pathways.

PHAB Performance Pathways Recognition Program: Feedback Sessions

PHAB hosted three webinars to provide information and solicit feedback on the Pathways Recognition Program development. View recordings of each session below:

Standards & Measures in the Pathways Recognition Program will be a subset of those for full accreditation. To provide feedback on the draft S&M for v2022, visit the Version 2022 Vetting webpage.

Anticipated Benefits of Pathways Recognition

An Alternative Milestone A Step Toward Accreditation
Objective review of performance by an external entity on a subset of national standards Taking a ‘smaller bite’
Identification of opportunities for improvement and facilitations of ongoing efforts to address those opportunities Knowledge and skill-building
Recognition for what the health department is required to do Confidence-boosting/earlier feedback
A more feasible goal for small health and under-resourced health departments to achieve Tangible progress toward a longer-term goal (accreditation) to help maintain motivation and engagement
May engage and/or incentivize health departments that otherwise would not have considered full accreditation A smaller initial investment of time and funds as compared to full accreditation


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The Pathways program development is informed by a Joint Task Force of PHAB and NACCHO Boards, staff from the National Indian Health Board, ASTHO and NACCHO, a Tribal Workgroup and webinar of Tribal practitioners and learnings from the PHAB accreditation process. Development of Pathways is further supported by the CDC’s Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Support.