All 85 local health departments in North Carolina have been awarded the status of accreditation by the North Carolina Local Health Department Accreditation Board as of June 20.
[Photo: Dr. Dorothy Cilenti]
North Carolina is the first state in the U.S. to mandate accreditation for its local health departments. The purpose of the accreditation program is to assure a basic level of capacity and services in each of the local health departments across the state.
“Accreditation is important to North Carolina,” said Dr. Dorothy Cilenti, accreditation administrator for the UNC Gillings School’s NC Institute for Public Health, where the state’s accreditation board is housed, and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the Gillings School. “It drives a basic standard for local public health service delivery.”
Dr. Cilenti said that accreditation ensures a set of important health standards for the state’s citizens.
“Regardless of where in North Carolina someone lives, they will receive the same basic level of service from their local health department. It creates a baseline level of access, professionalism, and accountability that our citizens can depend on,” she said.
A pilot program involving six local health departments began in 2004. Subsequently, all 85 of the state’s health departments have been included and have received accreditation.
The process of accreditation includes three major components – a self-assessment completed by the agency, a site visit by a multidisciplinary team of peers to review certain performance standards, and determination of accreditation status by an independent accreditation board comprised of state and local public health officials, board of health members, county commissioners, and public members.
“Serving as the accreditation administrator for the program is important for the Gillings School and the North Carolina Institute for Public Health, since both seek to transform the practice of public health through training, research and service,” Dr. Cilenti said. “Accreditation provides an opportunity to ensure that the local health departments in North Carolina are able to carry out the core functions and essential services of local public health practice.”
The accreditation process is a collaboration of the North Carolina Division of Public Health, part of the Department of Health and Human Services; the NC Association of Local Health Directors and the Gillings School’s North Carolina Institute for Public Health.