Accreditation Seeking Decisions in Local Health Departments

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background: Accreditation of local health departments (LHDs) has been identified as a crucial strategy for strengthening the public health infrastructure. This study seeks to identify the role of organizational and structural factors on accreditation-seeking decisions of LHDs.

data sets and sources: Data were obtained from the NACCHO 2013 National Profile of Local Health Departments Study. . LHDs were coded as “urban”, “micropolitan”, or “rural” based on Rural/Urban Commuting Area codes. “Micropolitan” includes census tracts with towns of 10,000 - 49,999 population and census tracts tied to these towns through commuting. “Rural” includes census tracts with small towns of fewer than 10,000 population, tracts tied to small towns, and isolated census tracts.

analysis: Binary logistic regression analysis was conducted to predict PHAB accreditation decision. Predictors included variables related to rurality, governance, funding, and workforce.

findings: From a sample of 448, approximately 6% of LHDs surveyed had submitted their letter of intent or full accreditation application. Over two-thirds were not seeking accreditation or deferring to the state agency. LHDs located in urban communities were 30.6 times (95% CI: 10.1, 93.2) more likely to seek accreditation compared to rural LHDs. LHDs with a local board of health were 3.5 times (95% CI: 1.6, 7.7) more likely to seek accreditation (controlling for rurality). Additionally, employing an epidemiologist (aOR=2.4, 95% CI: 1.2, 4.9), having a strategic plan (aOR=14.7, 95% CI: 6.7, 32.2) were associated with higher likelihood of seeking PHAB accreditation.

conclusions: Rural LHDs are less likely to seek accreditation. This lower likelihood of seeking accreditation likely relates to a myriad of challenges. Simultaneously, rural populations experience health disparities related to risky health behaviors, health outcomes, and access to medical care. Through accreditation, rural LHDs can become better equipped to meet the needs of their communities.


Chicago, IL

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