By Danny Bennion, MPH, MHA
The Salt Lake County Health Department operates as part of a county government structure, and accreditation helps us show that we are doing the right things in the right way. The county provides great support and leadership; however it does not understand every nuance of a health department’s responsibilities. Instead, it trusts us to self-govern. We have always done our best with this responsibility and we believe we have been doing things right, but achieving accreditation shows it.
The PHAB Standards and Measures gave us a measuring stick to help us know if our health department is meeting the essential functions of public health. Previously, our self-assessments were based on comparing vital records and health statistics to other local health departments to determine if we were doing enough. Accreditation added to that. We are now accountable to the accreditation standards as well as timely, granular and actionable public health data.
Comparing our current processes to accreditation requirements has created dialogue about what we are doing and what we need to change. We have not agreed with every standard and measure, but we think the vast majority of them make sense for our jurisdiction and provide direction for our health department. Discussing the measures has helped us understand and decide what is important for us and our community and why. For example, we realized we were not doing enough to address health inequities in our community, so we have started identifying disparate populations, what their needs are, and the best way to deliver services to them.
The accreditation process has changed how we operate. While reviewing the standards and measures we realized that we have many opportunities to improve. We solidified several guidelines and processes, including ones about after-action reports, public health ethics, and health promotion program development.
All in all, accreditation is a worthwhile process that has created more accountability at our health department because it has given us a way to measure if we are doing what we should be doing. We feel that accreditation has helped us become accountable for more than doing things right; now we are accountable to do the right things.
Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake, Utah, was awarded national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board on December 9, 2014.
About the author: Danny Bennion, MPH, MHA, is Quality Improvement Program Coordinator at Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake, Utah. Contact Danny at [email protected]