January 24, 2018
January 24, 2018
Hennepin County was established by the Territorial Legislature of Minnesota in 1852, six years before Minnesota became a state, and is part of the sixteenth most populated metropolitan areas in the nation. Hennepin County is the largest of Minnesota's 87 counties in budget, estimated market value, and population with almost a quarter of the state's population. In 2005, the Hennepin County Public Health Department was awarded Project Public Health Ready (PPHR) recognition. Since then, the department was re-recognized twice; once is 2010 and again in 2015. The department also received Public Health Accreditation Board accreditation in 2014.
In between the department’s first and second PPHR re-recognitions, Hennepin County began preparing for PHAB accreditation, which measures local health department (LHD) performance against a set of nationally recognized standards. Similar to PHAB, PPHR also measures LHD performance against a set of nationally recognized standards, however, PPHR focuses on preparedness competencies rather than a comprehensive review of all public health services. The PPHR application process provided Hennepin County an opportunity to focus on capability-based planning and criteria-based assessments. The process required a review of all the department’s emergency preparedness and response plans, programs, and tools. Having worked through and revised all of these documents during the initial PPHR review process and re-recognition process, Hennepin County Health Department was in a great position to use the transferable plan for the emergency preparedness and response portions of the PHAB accreditation application.
Similar to PPHR, LHD officials say a tangible benefit from participating in PHAB has been the formalization of their quality improvement efforts. While the department had some experience with quality improvement (QI), they did not have an intentional and robust infrastructure to guide efforts. They have since evolved to a formal agency-wide QI culture led by their QI Council with representation from all program areas with strong leadership engagement. Using PHAB’s guidance, the QI Council focuses on employee engagement; training; teamwork and collaboration; using data to measure impact of projects; and intentionally connecting QI efforts to our strategic plan and performance management system. Hennepin County is now able to measure their impact on departmental priorities and improve service, value and accountability.
While both recognition processes were extremely beneficial, they were not without challenges. PPHR requires the collection all of the response plan documents to ensure the plans remain current. Collecting these documents can be difficult as many of the all hazard plans are outside the Emergency Preparedness Unit’s primary responsibility. Similar to PPHR, the biggest challenge Hennepin County faced when applying for PHAB accreditation was creating an infrastructure to manage the application process. Since Hennepin County was one of the first local public health departments accredited, there were no existing tips, tools, process documents, lessons learned, or best practices to help guide the LHD through the multitude of steps in the application process.
As a result of the PPHR recognition process, Hennepin County Emergency Preparedness Unit shifted its focus to building regional and organizational capability and proficiency; they also used the transferable project management skills learned to apply for and achieve PHAB accreditation. Hennepin County Public Health Department now maintains the highest level of readiness and service for Hennepin County’s residents and visitors.