Accreditation of Local and State Health Departments (Encyclopedia of Public Health)
The United States has nearly 3,000 local public health departments. These range in size from those with only one employee to very large departments with over 20,000 employees. With such a wide range in size there is also a wide range of services and capabilities. Yet, regardless of whether they are in small rural communities or in large urban cities, public health departments should assure that the communities they serve have safe water supplies, clear air, safe food to eat in restaurants, and protection from many emerging diseases like the West Nile virus, HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency disease), and other preventable conditions.
Accreditation is one way to maintain the quality of the goods and services people receive. Accreditation is the approval given to an organization or institution (or a program at that organization or institution) by an independent review board to assure the specific requirements have been met. An institution that is accredited has shown that it meets a set of standards that have been established by its peers.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, has developed a set of model standards for state and local departments and their partners. These standards define the level and quality of service that public health departments and their partners should achieve. The CDC is a strong advocate that the model standards can be the basis of a voluntary accreditation program for public health departments. Such a program could benefit public health departments by stimulating quality improvement, increasing accountability, and increasing their credibility.
(SEE ALSO: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; State and Local Health Departments)