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Advancing Public Health

Georgia Public Health District Accreditation Program 

In 2012, Healthcare Georgia Foundation launched the Georgia Public Health District Accreditation Pilot Program as an extension of the Foundation’s prior work and dedication to advancing public health in Georgia. The purposes of this funding opportunity are to:

  • Improve the quality and performance of the public health system in Georgia
  • Assist public health districts in evaluating and restructuring their infrastructure 
  • Align resources with performance

In order to accomplish this, the Foundation provided support to facilitate the successful submission of public health district accreditation applications to the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB).

Georgia continues to rank low in nearly all indicators of health status with an overall 2014 ranking of 38 from the United Health Foundation. Simultaneously, the need for preventive health care efforts in areas such as infectious diseases, maternal and child health, chronic diseases, and emergency preparedness have not diminished, and in all likelihood, will increase given that the state’s population has been growing at twice the national average over the past decade. 

In many parts of the state, county health departments are functioning with fewer staff, even in the face of persistent pressure to provide essential health services for its residents such as primary care, environmental and sanitation enforcement, and emergency preparedness. Public health’s responsibilities go beyond these services; it also has a critical role in monitoring and providing information on health issues, the need for which is rising. The lack of financial resources has resulted in reduced funding for training and operations, including the critical element of information technology, which is having an adverse impact on improving efficiencies, and putting local and state agencies at a disadvantage in preparing for the future. It is more important than ever that the core functions—assessing the population’s health status, developing public health policies, enforcing public health laws and educating the public—are addressed.

The Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) was established with the backing of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has a close working relationship with the National Association of City and County Health Officials, the National Association of Local Boards of Health, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the National Network of Public Health Institutes and the National Indian Health Board.  Its goal is to “help public health departments assess their current capacity and guide them to continuously improve the quality of their services, thus promoting a healthier public.” (Guide to National Public Health Department Accreditation, The emphasis is to assist health departments—state, local, tribal and territorial—in providing high quality programs, enhancing workforce capabilities, and being responsive to community needs. The result is a national system with a set of standards for accountability and quality improvement, a process for measuring performance against those standards, and a means for recognizing those who meet the standards. 

The Georgia Public Health Accreditation program goals are to: 

  1. Increase the number of public health districts in Georgia that are actively engaged in accreditation readiness and preparedness activities
  2. Document the accreditation process for both single-county and multi-jurisdictional districts, including barriers and successful strategies
  3. Foster productive interactions of public health districts and county health departments with local communities
  4. Enhance the accountability of public health districts and county health departments
  5. Create opportunities for public health districts to become models for other districts and share lessons learned

During the pilot program, two public health districts (DeKalb and Gwinnett County Boards of Health) were awarded grants of $112,500 each in September 2012 for 24 months to complete PHAB’s three required prerequisites: 1) community health assessment; 2) community health improvement plan; and 3) agency strategic plan. A grant was provided to Georgia Southern University’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health to serve as the technical assistance provider to the two selected grantees. Both DeKalb and Gwinnett received additional funding of $50,000 each in June 2014 for 12 months to continue their accreditation work, complete PHAB’s Standards and Measures documentation and prepare for site visits.

In 2015, the second phase of the Foundation’s work in accreditation focused on assisting other public health districts in Georgia with their accreditation readiness activities. The grants were smaller in scope and scale in order to assist public health districts who were later adopters of accreditation to begin the process of the either conducting at least one of the three prerequisites or addressing PHAB’s Standards and Measures, such as quality improvement, and performance management. Four grants were approved for $52,500 for 18 months during the second phase. 

The Foundation’s investment in the Georgia Public Health District Accreditation Program totals $600,000. Although 2015 marked the last round of funding for this program, the Foundation continues to be committed to advancing the work of public health in Georgia. 


  • DeKalb County Board of Health ($162,500) – Pilot Phase Grant Awarded $112,500 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2014
  • Gwinnett County Board of Health ($162,500) – Pilot Phase Grant Awarded $112,500 in 2012 and $50,000 in 2014
  • Glynn County Board of Health ($52,500) – Phase II Grant Awarded in 2015
  • Houston County Board of Health ($52,500) – Phase II Grant Awarded in 2015
  • Laurens County Board of Health ($52,500) – Phase II Grant Awarded in 2015 
  • Troup County Board of Health ($52,500) – Phase II Grant Awarded in 2015

In addition, the following grant was awarded to provide technical assistance to both DeKalb and Gwinnett during the two-year pilot phase: 

  • Georgia Southern University Research and Service Foundation, Inc. ($65,000) – Pilot Phase Grant Awarded in 2012


Additional Resources:

America’s Health Rankings – United Health Foundation

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO)

Public Health Accreditation Board