What makes a strong public health department?

Standard answers to that question include: innovative leadership, a dedicated staff, robust data collection, and high-quality services that protect and promote the health of the public. Increasingly, national public health accreditation has been added to that list.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) was among the first big city public health departments in the U.S. to receive national accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).  PDPH achieved accreditation in November 2015 after undergoing a rigorous, peer review assessment process to ensure we met or exceeded a set of quality standards and measures for public health. The five-year designation recognizes the PDPH’s capacity and commitment to protect and promote the health of all Philadelphians.

Public health accreditation was developed to standardize and improve the quality of health departments across the country.  State, territorial, local, and tribal health departments are eligible to apply for public health accreditation. The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), along with 4,000 public health experts, developed this process to measure performance against a set of standards based on “The 10 Essential Public Health Services.” PHAB is jointly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Health departments report that public health accreditation from PHAB helps them:

  • Better identify their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Document their capacity to deliver the core functions and 10 Essential Public Health Services.
  • Promote transparency.
  • Improve their management processes.
  • Stimulate quality improvement and performance management.
  • Increase their accountability to community members, stakeholders, and policymakers.
  • Improve their communication with the governing entity/board of health.
  • Be more competitive in funding opportunities.

As an accredited health department, the PDPH works to promote a culture of performance management and continuous quality improvement. We have been able to strengthen our internal processes, identify opportunities for improvement, and reinforce our relationship with community partners. Several key PDPH plans were developed as a result of public health accreditation including the Community Health Assessment, Community Health Improvement Plan, and Strategic Plan. [link to Data and reports page]

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health will submit an application for reaccreditation by the end of 2020.