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Comments sought on new accreditation standards.

Public health workers who want to help shape the way the nation's health departments are evaluated are invited to comment on a proposed set of benchmarks developed by a national public health accreditation group.

This month, the Public Health Accreditation Board is planning to release a draft set of standards and measures that will eventually be used to assess health departments that are applying for national accreditation through the organization. Health workers, especially those who work in or with state, local or tribal health departments, are encouraged to review the criteria and provide input.

"We really want and need to have wide comment in reaction to what is being proposed, because the whole purpose of the domains and the standards and measures is to improve the performance of the health departments," said William Riley, PhD, interim executive director of the Public Health Accreditation Board, during a December webcast. "This needs to make sense to the health departments that will be using the system."

The release of the draft standards and measures is the latest step by the Public Health Accreditation Board in its work to create a voluntary national accreditation system for the nation's more than 3,000 health departments. Funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the effort is supported by organizations such as APHA, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Association of County and City Health Officials and National Association of Local Boards of Health.

"Accreditation is common and recognized in many health fields, including laboratories, hospitals and schools of public health," said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E). "By making this valuable tool available to all of our health departments, we will be taking a huge step toward improving the nation's health infrastructure."

The comment period for the standards and measures will be open through April, after which they will be finalized. In July, the Public Health Accreditation Board plans to begin a year-and-a-half-long "beta test" involving 30 state, local and tribal health departments from around the country.

By late 2011, the accreditation system is slated to be fully operational and accepting applicants, according to organizers. All state, local, tribal and territorial health departments will be eligible to apply for national accreditation, which is expected to help health departments recognize their achievements, gauge their performance and drive quality improvement.

The drive for accreditation fits well with other national efforts to strengthen the public health infrastructure, such as the National Public Health Performance Standards Program and the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships--or MAPP--process, said Karlene Baddy, MEd, APHA's program director for public health systems and partnerships.

"The common beneficiary in all of these efforts is the health of the public and of the communities served by the health system," Baddy said.

For more information or to comment on the standards and measures, visit www.phaboard.org. Visitors to the site can also sign up for the board's newsletter and access the December webcast.
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Author:Late, Michele
Publication:The Nation's Health
Date:Feb 1, 2009
Words:501
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