Defense Public Health Accreditation

Last Updated: January 17, 2023
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What is Accreditation?​

Accreditation is a status that provides public notification that an institution, program, or agency meets standards of quality set forth by an accrediting agency. Accreditation of public health departments helps these departments measure their performance against a set of nationally-recognized, practice-focused, and evidence-based standards. ​​​​​​​​​​​Accreditation increases accountability to stakeholders and validates work of health departments on a set of recognized standards. The 29 August 2014 Military Health System (MHS) Review, Final Report to the Secretary of Defense highlighted the importance of accreditation for quality and uniform processes.

What is Public Health Accreditation?

The voluntary national accreditation program for public health departments was launched by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) in 2011. The foundation of public health accreditation is performance improvement (PI) by requiring public health departments to identify and address gaps in their provision and assurance of the 10 Essential Public Health Services to the populations they serve. It provides a framework for health departments to identify performance improvement opportunities, demonstrate credibility, develop leadership, and improve relationships within the community. It also serves as both an accountability and transparency mechanism and is a step on a journey to transform public health practice.

The national accreditation program assesses a health department’s capacity to carry out the 10 Essential Public Health Services and Foundational Capabilities needed to support basic public health protections, programs, and activities key to ensuring community health well-being and achieving equitable outcomes.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and PreventionExternal Link​​


The Foundational Public Health Services framework defines a minimum set of capabilities and areas that must be available in every community and outlines the unique responsibilities of governmental public health.

 

Source: Public Health National Center for InnovationsExternal Link


In 2014, the U.S. Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) designated the Department of Public Health (DPH) at Irwin Army Community Hospital (Fort Riley, Kansas) as a Public Health Accreditation Demonstration Site. In November 2018, this department became the first military site to achieve national public health accreditation.  In March 2020, the Fort Bragg DPH at Womack Army Medical Center became the second military site to achieve accreditation. As of January 2023, three more installation DPHs at Army locations are in the accreditation process with decisions anticipated summer 2023.​



What is Defense Public Health Accreditation?

Public health accreditation provides a means and a framework to continuously improve the quality of public health services provided by installation departments of public health (DPH) at Army locations.  In July 2018 and again in November 2019, the MEDCOM authorized the Army Public Health Performance Improvement/Accreditation Program directing 28 Army installation DPH to improve performance in alignment with nationally-recognized standards and pursue public health accreditation. In this multi-year, phased initiative, these DPH will apply for public health accreditation through the PHAB to ensure quality and effectiveness, signal that Defense Public Health delivers services on part with civilian counterparts, and to fill a gap in MHS health-related accreditation designation.

This program can help drive healthy behaviors and healthy environments to improve the health, safety and readiness of Service members and their families, other beneficiaries,  the Military community and addresses DHA's priority for a high reliability organization.  Each of the installation DPHs at Army locations that are not yet accredited by the end of FY23 will complete a readiness assessment to determine whether or not the DPH is well-poised to apply for initial accreditation or a new program offered by PHAB called the Pathways Recognition Program.

The Pathways Recognition Program is intended to be a “meaningful step along a health department's performance improvement journey. It allows a health department to make sizable progress toward accreditation by demonstrating achievement of the Foundational ​(Public Health) Capabilities​." This program provides a stepwise path towards accreditation. This program is expected to be of benefit in helping many installation DPHs at Army locations that may not yet be ready to pursue initial accreditation.  More information on this program can be found at: Pathways Recognition Program - Public Health Accreditation Board (phaboard.org)External Link​.​​


What are the Benefits of Public Health Accreditation?

Since September 2011, PHAB has recognized health departments that meet national standards that ensure these departments provide essential public health services in their communities. A PHAB evaluation report published by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in June 2022External Link​ showed that health departments agree that accreditation helps them:

  • Stimulate quality improvement (95%)
  • Improve accountability and transparency (89%)
  • Improve capacity to provide high quality programs and services (85%)
  • Strengthen relationship with key partners in other sectors (e.g., health care, social services, education) (78%)
  • Use health equity as a lens for identifying and addressing health priorities (73%)
  • Increase the extent to which the health department uses evidence-based practices (68%)
  • Strengthen the utilization of resources (68%)
 

For more information on the value and impact of public health department accreditation and the results of continued independent evaluation of non-military accredited health departments, visit https://phaboard.org/wp-content/uploads/PHAB-Value-and-Impact.pdfExternal Link​​. 

For information on the results of independent evaluations of public health accreditation in the military, contact the Defense Centers for Public Health-Aberdeen Public Health PI/A Team at:  usarmy.apg.medcom-aphc.list.ph-improvement-accreditation@health.milExternal Link.​



DPH Leader Perspectives:

"We started as an Army preventive medicine department and transformed into an Army department of public health.  Accreditation standards required us to rethink how… to make a greater health impact on the Fort Riley community, and how to integrate multiple disciplines while collaborating with organizations outside the walls of our installation." ~ COL Donald W. Robinson, Former Chief, Fort Riley Department of Public Health (1st Military DPH Accredited)


“Through our accreditation efforts, we enormously strengthened our relationship with local county and state public health. These efforts enabled us to be better prepared for COVID-19 and work collaboratively on case investigation and contact tracing. This led to increased visibility and awareness of the Department of Public Health as the public health experts on Fort Bragg and the primary source of COVID-19 information for this large installation." ~ COL Sheryl Bedno (retired), Former Chief, Fort Bragg Department of Public Health (2nd Military DPH Accredited)



How can Installation Departments of Public Health Receive Support to Pursue Public Health Accreditation?

The DCPH-A provides subject matter expertise; consultation to installation DPH virtually and via in-person staff assistance visits; and trainings. An online toolkit containing guidance, resources, examples, and modifiable templates for use by DPH is also available. The toolkit enables installation DPH to focus on specific PI activities to meet nationally-recognized performance standards and prepare for public health accreditation.  The toolkit is an evolving resource that will be updated with new information and tools.

The Defense Public Health Performance Improvement and Accreditation Toolkit is available and accessible via a CAC-enabled extranet site at: https://eaphc.amedd.army.mil/PHPIT/SitePages/Home.aspxExternal Link​. 

For more information on available consultation, staff assistance visits, or the toolkit, please contact the DCPH-A Public Health PI/A Team at usarmy.apg.medcom-aphc.list.ph-improvement-accreditation@health.milExternal Link.

Disclaimer:The mention of any non-federal entity in this document should not be construed or interpreted, in any manner, as official federal endorsement of that non-federal entity.