Project Description

Accreditation Process Prompts Rhode Island Department of Health to Formalize Partnerships with Institutes of Higher Education

By Laurie A. Leonard, MS

The public health accreditation process prompted the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) to identify partnerships as an area in need of formalization. Although RIDOH had offered and supported partnership development in the past, a coordinated program to formalize partnerships with institutes of higher education was needed.

The RIDOH Academic Center was developed in 2015 to address this need as well as improve internal workforce development and integration of interdisciplinary skills. RIDOH staff were assessed to determine baseline knowledge of accreditation-related topics such as available resources, quality improvement, and workforce development needs. This information became the foundation upon which the RIDOH Academic Center established an internal culture of learning that includes a workforce development plan and formalized partnerships with institutes of higher education across the state, including the Brown University School of Public Health, University of Rhode Island, Roger Williams University, Rhode Island College, Johnson and Wales University, and Community College of Rhode Island ,as well as with the State of Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner. Partnerships with these schools allow RIDOH to integrate interdisciplinary scholarly activities into our public health programs to enhance the policy and practice work we do through provision of educational opportunities for our staff, and offering opportunities for Rhode Island’s interdisciplinary students and academic faculty to experience and affect implementation of public health in action.

RIDOH is proud of the relationships that have been developed with the academic institutions. Currently, RIDOH is the only academic health department in the nation to have formalized partnerships with six institutes of higher education. Twelve RIDOH staff were nominated for adjunct faculty positions at Brown University in 2018. Additionally, RIDOH is collaborating with those schools to identify mechanisms for staff to receive course credit for work experience and opportunities for decreased cost for college courses to enhance the education level and public health competency of the Department. These relationships are also supporting submission of proposals that will fund academic faculty being placed at RIDOH to cultivate collaborations and support expansion of RIDOH’s workforce development program, development of an online career pathways and continuing education exchange, and a more efficient and streamlined process for offering scholar experiences (internships) to students in interdisciplinary programs of study.

Although RIDOH was already guided by evidence-based data-driven programs and policies, the public health accreditation process has allowed RIDOH to identify and achieve new goals by re-assessing the needs of RIDOH programs and staff and developing partnerships to meet those needs.

The Rhode Island Department of Health in Providence, Rhode Island, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on November 10, 2015.

About the author: Laurie A. Leonard, MS, is Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health Academic Center. Contact her at [email protected]