HONOLULU (Oct. 11, 2018) -- Beginning this month, the preventive medicine departments across Regional Health Command-Pacific (RHC-P) will kick off a performance improvement and accreditation initiative to position themselves for national accreditation in public health.

Unique to the military, is that some public health departments and services are embedded within the preventive medicine departments of military treatment facilities (MTF), whereas within the civilian sector, public health departments are typically managed through city or county governments.

Accreditation is a recognition of quality that reflects an organization's commitment to meeting certain performance standards, which will be reviewed and certified by the Public Health Accreditation Board.

"In 2011, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off a national movement to begin accrediting public health departments. For the Army, the installation-level preventive medicine departments are the current focus for accreditation," said Dr. Jim Cook, the deputy preventive medicine chief for RHC-P. "It's a lengthy process to prepare for an accreditation, and can take several years. The entire process across the Army is scheduled to take nine years, for the 28 preventive medicine departments that have been identified to pursue accreditation."

There are four MTFs in the Pacific region with preventive medicine departments that will pursue accreditation. Bassett Army Community Hospital at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will be the first hospital to apply for accreditation in 2020. Following Bassett, the remaining preventive medicine departments will be scheduled at a rate of one per fiscal year.

"The goal of national public health accreditation is to improve and protect the health of Soldiers, family members, civilian workers and the communities we serve by advancing the quality and performance of public health departments across the Army," said Cook.

Over the upcoming years, MTF accreditation preparations will implement a variety of public health processes, policies and activities. Developing plans for risk communication, workforce development, and public health emergency operations will be a few of the tasks preventive medicine departments will take on.

"The program is designed as a performance improvement initiative to improve public health services we provide to the communities we serve," added Cook. "It's developed to improve what the CDC has defined as the 10-Essential Public Health Services."

According to the CDC, the 10 essential public health services are to:
- Monitor health status to identify and solve community health problems.
- Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community.
- Inform, educate and empower people about health issues.
- Mobilize community partnerships and action to identify and solve health problems.
- Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts.
- Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety.
- Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable.
- Assure competent public and personal health care workforce.
- Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services.
- Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.

The public health accreditation process will assess areas of functionality that include: leadership, planning, community engagement, customer focus, workforce development, evaluation and quality improvement, and governance.

"At the end of the day, our goal is to optimize the health and readiness of our Soldiers to perform their wartime missions, and to promote and protect the health of everyone in the Army community," said Cook.