By Kara Vogelson and Alyse DeVries
The Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health used accreditation as a process improvement initiative to strategically strengthen infrastructure, maintain a high level of quality services, and to move into the role of regional Chief Health Strategist. As soon as we began creating and updating foundational documents like the strategic plan, community health assessment and improvement plan (CHA/CHIP), etc., we began to understand how important existing partnerships with the community were and would continue to be throughout the accreditation process.
Beginning accreditation coincided with our CHA/CHIP cycle. We initiated the CHA with two other anchor institutions serving as our core team; from there, we added in other vital organizations to contribute, elicit information from, build community support, and have a true community CHA/CHIP. Accreditation also broadened our scope for use of partners throughout the rest of the process and highlighted the need to solidify partnerships through formal agreements and memorandums. The measures helped us identify the need to document joint messaging, exercises, and other community collaborations for future use and reference.
In Domain 3, we especially relied on our partners for joint messaging to reach common goals. Along with our local medical institution, we developed a campaign (e.g. co-hosting fair booth, providing joint interviews, creating radio messaging, sharing social media posts, etc.) to move women to seek mammograms. We also used our existing Diabetes Prevention Program as a focus group to help us reach our target population and increase program participation. Another example is we vetted a sexual health messaging campaign through our local chapter of OneIowa to ensure inclusivity for the LGBTQ population. The need for effective and consistent communication with community partners to maintain current knowledge of activities, assets, and resources was also evident when working towards satisfying the standards.
It became clear through our accreditation journey that as a smaller health department, we could go back to our partners time and again and they welcomed the opportunities to shape programs, documents, and messaging. Our Department is incredibly proud of all of our partnerships, but especially our multi-sector health improvement partnership which continues in force today, bringing change to the community. This has increased our accountability to each other, created truly collaborative programming, and played a role that increased funding to our stakeholders.
Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in Mason City, Iowa was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on February 20, 2018.
About the authors: Kara Vogelson, MHA, CPH, is the organizational development and research manager at Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in Mason City, Iowa. Alyse DeVries is public health strategist at Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health. Contact them at [email protected].