newborn screening

A health worker examines a baby soon after birth. Newborn health screenings are among the many services provided by U.S. health departments, a growing number of which are accredited. Photo by Tatyana_tomsickova, courtesy iStockphoto

It is a recognition among peers. It can boost a shrinking budget. And it signals to communities that they can get quality care where they live.

More and more, state and local health departments are seeking and receiving accreditation, the acknowledgement of high-quality, high-performing service of departments across the country via peer review by the Public Health Accreditation Board. Accreditation shows a department meets a set of nationally recognized performance standards. In February, nine health departments received accreditation, bringing the total number of accredited departments across the country to 220. Florida’s entire statewide health department system is also accredited. Nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population is served by a health department that meets PHAB standards. But with another 167 departments currently undergoing the accreditation process, the number of accredited departments could double in just a few years, said Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, president and CEO of the Public Health Accreditation Board and an APHA member.

For the nine departments that received accreditation in February, the years-long process toward their goal was a no-brainer. The diverse group included the Cascade City-County Health Department in Great Falls, Montana; Lincoln Trail District Health Department in Elizabethtown, Kentucky; City of St. Louis Department of Health in St. Louis, Missouri; and Eau Claire City-County Health Department in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

To continue reading this story from the May 2018 issue of The Nation’s Health, visit the newspaper online.