In a move that could change the landscape of public health in Georgia, leaders at the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) announced Friday the decision to seek formal, national accreditation. If approved, DPH would join the states of Washington and Oklahoma in achieving this status.
“Our work in our first two and a half years as a new department tells us we’re doing the right thing and bringing the right health outcomes,” said DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. “And I think we’re ready to be recognized by our peers as a true model of public health.”
In order for Georgia to receive full accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), examiners will assess DPH in ten essential services of public health. Georgia’s DPH could seek accreditation as early as 2015.
At a statewide meeting of district health directors and administrators in Atlanta on Friday, Fitzgerald said the department’s next step would be to build a team. Already, Fitzgerald has tapped Scott Uhlich, previously DPH’s director of the Office of Environmental Health, to lead the ongoing project.
“This is certainly going to be a department-wide effort,” Uhlich said. “But accreditation is something we believe in and something that will further confirm to our public and those we serve that DPH is truly leading the way in so many areas.”
PHAB’s national accreditation program, supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to advance the quality and performance of the nation's public health departments.
To receive accreditation, a health department must undergo a "rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure that it meets or exceeds a specific set of quality standards and measures," according to PHAB’s website. The process consists of seven steps: pre-application, application, document selection and submission, site visit, accreditation decision, reports and, ultimately, reaccreditation.
Just as hospitals, schools and law enforcement agencies do, public health departments can use accreditation to define expectations for the services they provide, set standards and measures to evaluate those services and ensure that public health programs are responsive to the communities they serve.
Georgia’s Cobb and Douglas Public Health district and the DeKalb Board of Health are already seeking PHAB accreditation status for their districts, along with the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale county health departments.
“We’ve already learned a lot from our public health districts about the accreditation process,” Uhlich said. “We’re really looking forward to this.”
Chris Rustin, Ph.D., will replace Uhlich as the director of the Office of Environmental Health.