WashU: Accreditation May Spur Use of Evidence by Health Departments

Community Engagement; Faculty; Public Health; Research

Public health departments that have been accredited by the U.S. Public Health Accreditation Board are more likely to have capacity and support for evidence-based decision making, according to a new paper from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

In a survey of 350 local health departments, staff were asked about six factors of their organization’s support for evidence-based decision making (EBDM). About one-third of the departments were accredited, another third were preparing for accreditation and the remainder were neither accredited nor preparing.

Accredited health departments were more likely to report higher capacity and resource availability for EBDM than health departments that reported not yet preparing for accreditation.

The U.S. national movement for voluntary public health department accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board has gained momentum since it began in 2011. Standards include evidence-based practice. As of March 2019, 79% of the U.S. population resided in areas served by accredited health departments.

“Survey findings support the premise that the national voluntary accreditation movement is linked with improved health department performance,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Peg Allen, Research Assistant Professor at the Brown School. “Accreditation standards may help motivate organizational supports for evidence-based decision making.”

The study was published Dec. 17 in Frontiers in Public Health.