Saint Louis County Department of Health Going for “Gold”
Accreditation by National Board Would Be a First for Region
(February 3, 2014) – While U.S. athletes prepare to go for gold in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, the Saint Louis County Department of Health has been prepping for their own gold medal – national accreditation.
The Saint Louis County Department of Health currently holds statewide accreditation, having received and maintained 100 percent comprehensive accreditation for more than five years. The statewide honor was the highest achievable until recently. The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), the national accrediting organization for public health departments, is now offering national certification and Dr. Dolores J. Gunn, health department director, said her team is ready to compete.
“We are excited about this opportunity and we’ve been meeting with our community partners, elected officials, and community leaders for more than a year to get ready for this,” Gunn said. The county health department would be the first nationally accredited public health department in the eastern Missouri region according to Gunn.
The PHAB accreditation process consists of seven steps: (1) Pre-application; (2) Application; (3) Documentation Selection and Submission; (4) Site Visit; (5) Accreditation Decision; (6) Reports; and (7) Reaccreditation.
One of the most important steps is the development of a comprehensive strategic plan. Dr. Gunn and her team developed five strategic priorities in January. Those priorities center around communication to enhance access to healthcare and improved health literacy, a Community Health Improvement Plan to address chronic disease, public health workforce development, performance management and data management systems to monitor progress and communicate results, and age-friendly programs and services to meet population needs.
“We took feedback from a lot of different areas including elected officials, the hospital systems, regional health agencies, and local non-profits,” Gunn said. Three major reports also shaped the plan: a Community Themes and Strengths Assessment, a Local Public Health Systems Assessment, and a Forces of Change Assessment.
The execution of the strategic priorities requires the realignment of existing staff and the addition of three epidemiologists. These steps put the department in excellent position to achieve national accreditation according to Gunn.
Three health department employees will have begin new assignments this week as part of the realignment.
Jade James, M.D. M.P.H., an Obstetrician and Director of Research and Medical Services, will also become the Deputy Director of Health for the Saint Louis County Department of Health. Dr. James will assist the director in the overall implementation of the strategic plan for the DOH. She will also assist with the implementation and execution of the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) which includes monitoring chronic disease across populations. Dr. James is a highly respected physician in the community. She is compassionate and dedicated. In addition, to receiving her degree of medicine from Meharry Medical College, she received her Master’s in Public Health and Health Policy from Saint Louis University.
Velda Jamison has also accepted the additional responsibilities to ensure current health data systems among the county department of health, the state health department, and local health partners are able to collect and report specific public health data. She will also manage fleet and facility services to meet demand. For over 30 years Ms. Jamison has proven to be an exemplary employee and leads by example. She has made significant contributions to the department as Health Information Program Manager for the past three years. She attended St. Louis Community College and is a certified IT Network Administrator and Implementation Manager.
Desiree Whitlock, a community health educator and leader, will become Special Assistant to the Director. Her new responsibilities will include education and outreach to the St. Louis County Council, municipalities, and local elected officials relating to public health issues in their communities. She will also staff special projects as needed. Ms. Whitlock is a graduate of Fisk University and received her Master’s in Health Administration from Lindenwood University.
This week, the health department will provide its community health partners and officials in area municipalities with copies of the strategic priorities and the supporting data, Gunn said.
A nonprofit organization, PHAB is dedicated to improving and protecting the health of the public by advancing the quality and performance of Tribal, state, local, and territorial public health departments. This is the first time national accreditation has been offered. Incorporated in May 2007, PHAB works closely with several organizations that represent the wide variety of public health departments and structures across the country. These partners include: the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), the National Association of Local Boards of Health (NALBOH), the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), the National Network of Public Health Institutes (NNPHI), and the Public Health Foundation (PHF).