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CVHD first public health department in N.D. to get national accreditation

Robin Iszler, unit administrator at Central Valley Health District, talks Tuesday about the accreditation the facility received. Masaki Ova/The Sun

Central Valley Health District is one of 80 public health departments in the nation that has received national accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board.

Central Valley Health, which is one of 28 health units in North Dakota, is the first local public health department in the state to receive national accreditation.

“We are pretty hyped up about this,” said Robin Iszler, registered nurse and unit administrator at CVHD. “It means that we are measured by a set of standards that will be for all health departments across the country. Those standards mean we are doing right thing when it comes to our work in public health.”

Terry Dwelle, state health officer, said going through the process of accreditation and being accredited is a “significant achievement.”

“The PHAB process is a significant thing to go through. It requires extensive amount of documentation of the work that you are doing,” he said.

Logan County Commissioner Dean Entzminger, who is a member of the Central Valley Health District Board of Health, said Central Valley Health being accredited shows that it is doing a good job.

“I think Robin does a very good job as do the nurses, too,” he said. “I think the board and the nurses work well together.”

Central Valley Health serves Stutsman and Logan counties. It provides services aimed at promoting healthy behaviors, prevents diseases and injuries, ensures access to safe food, water clean air and immunizations and prepares for public health emergencies and how to respond to them.

PHAB Accreditation Standards and Measures and the Guide to National Public Health Department Accreditation were released to the public in July 2011, and national public health department accreditation launched in September 2011. PHAB was created to serve as the national public health accrediting body. There had not been a national accreditation program for public health departments before 2011.

The national accreditation program is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The accreditation program sets standards that more than 3,000 governmental public health departments can use to improve their quality of services and performance. The accreditation program was developed over a decade-long process with input from public health professionals, researchers, academics and other technical experts.

The accreditation process looked at Central Valley Health’s programs, policies, procedures, tasks and day-to-day operations. The process also looked at how Central Valley Health works with its local board of health, which oversees how Central Valley Health spends its money and engages with the public.

“This just shows that what we are doing is good use of the public money because we were able to measure ourselves against other health departments,” Iszler said. “We are doing the right thing. We are doing the right type of work.”

Tami Dillman, finance director for Central Valley Health who worked as an accreditation director, said Central Valley Health paid nearly $13,000 to get national accreditation, and it used public funds to pay for it. Iszler said Central Valley Health did not receive any grants to help pay for the accreditation process, but it used grant money when it was picked to be part of PHAB’s beta test processing in 2010. Central Valley Health applied for accreditation in 2014.

“We were one of 13 health departments that were chosen to test the process,” she said. “During the testing phase, we weren’t 100 percent ready either so that is why it has taken us until 2015 to get this done because we had some things we learned through that process that we needed to do as a health department to be the best so we could pass the accreditation.”

With Central Valley Health being nationally accredited, Iszler said she believes the public health facility can have an edge over other grant applicants.

“We usually say for that every local dollar that we spend we bring back $3 from federal funds to our community to help people with services and programs and health,” she said.

Iszler said accreditation involved Central Valley Health submitting the community health assessment, community health improvement plan and its strategic plan to PHAB. Central Valley Health works with Jamestown Regional Medical Center to develop the community health assessment and community improvement health plan.

After Central Valley Health sent in its documentation to get accredited, a group of peers from different health departments in the U.S. came to Jamestown for a site visit. The peers visited Central Valley Health to see if it was doing what the documents said it was doing and provided a report to PHAB.

“The people who will be reviewing the documentation and the site visitors as well as doing the site visit are all people that are coming from local public health units and state health departments,” Dwelle said. “These are people with practical health experience.”

During the site visit, Iszler said site visitors mentioned Central Valley Health having a strong partnership with community organizations.

“This comment shows that our community agencies are working to protect the health and safety of the community,” she said. “ We should be proud that we have this strong partnership and we are able to respond to the needs of our citizens to improve health outcomes.”

Just because Central Valley Health is accredited, it doesn’t mean it can stop working, Iszler said.

“We will need to work to continually improve services, we are always looking for new funding sources, looking for ways to continually do our work better and also responding to emerging issues in our community like homeless and change in workforce and new people coming to community, changing demographics, responding to chronic disease and continuing to prevent the public from new diseases that might emerge,” she said.

Central Valley Health will hold an open house to celebrate its national accreditation from 1 to 3 p.m. Sept. 21. People will have an opportunity to learn what the public health facility does.

Sun Assistant Editor Masaki Ova can be reached at (701)952-8451 or by email at mova@jamestownsun.com

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