Assessing Outcomes from Public Health Accreditation

Since 2013, NORC at the University of Chicago has conducted several independent evaluations to assess the outcomes of the national public health accreditation program administered by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB). The mission of the accreditation program is to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing and transforming the quality and performance of governmental public health agencies in the United States and abroad.

From May 2013 to December 2016, NORC conducted the “Initial Evaluation of the Public Health Accreditation Program.” This project was sponsored by PHAB, through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From February 2015 to November 2017, NORC conducted the “Evaluation of Short-Term Outcomes from Public Health Accreditation,” with support provided from RWJF. From February 2017 through February 2020, NORC continued to gather data on accreditation outcomes via surveys of applicant and accredited health departments with support from RWJF.

NORC sends four surveys to all health departments that have applied for and achieved PHAB accreditation. The four surveys are the: 1) Applicant Survey, sent to applicant health departments after they have registered their intent to apply for accreditation; 2) Accredited Survey, sent to newly accredited health departments after the accreditation decision; 3) Post-Accreditation Survey, sent to accredited health departments approximately one year after the accreditation decision; and 4) Year 4 Accreditation Survey, sent to accredited health departments approximately four years after the accreditation decision, as they are preparing for reaccreditation. NORC has maintained a high response rate, ranging between 87% and 94% for all four surveys.

Data gathered through the health department surveys demonstrates the impact of accreditation, including, enhanced quality improvement (QI) and performance management opportunities, including QI activities and culture; increased accountability and transparency both within the health department and to external stakeholders; improved collaboration and partnerships; and improved capacity to provide high-quality programs and services. Evaluation findings are available from several reports, research briefs, and publications.