BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The Bloomfield Department of Health was notified Friday, Nov. 13, that it had been accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, a nonprofit, national health organization attempting to standardize public-health services.
According to the PHAB, 45 percent of the United States population is currently provided health service by a PHAB-accredited health department. According to Karen Lore, the BHD director, the township has the first health department in New Jersey with the accreditation.
“This should reassure residents that they are getting a high quality of services,” Lore said earlier this week. “And it allows us to seek additional funding as an accredited department.”
The PHAB accreditation process began formally in 2011. Bloomfield had been selected as a test site for how the accreditation process should work. Once the national accreditation process was formalized, the Bloomfield department decided to try for it. That took almost three more years for to accomplish.
“The first step, before applying for accreditation, was a community health assessment,” Lore said. “This was a few years back and residents might remember it.
“Once we had that, you had to have a community-improvement health plan, or how to improve health outcomes,” she said. “Then it took two years to develop the rest of the documentation.”
The rest of the documentation, Lore said, was an exact picture of what standards her department was employing when going about its business, and how the attainment of those standards was measured.
To satisfy these requirements, the Bloomfield Department of Health had to review 12 areas necessary for a public health-service provider, defined by the PHAB. This amounted to a complete review of the department down to the tiniest detail. To make the review, the department worked with consultants from Montclair State University. But basically, Lore said, existing staff members worked as accreditation coordinators and kept the process on track and moving.
“And everything was under the umbrella of continuous quality improvement,” Lore said. “They looked at the systems we had in place, performance management plans, everything. They wanted a more formalized way to meet their requirements.”
Once the documentation was collected, it was submitted to the PHAB.
“The accreditation board accepted it and there was a site visit,” Lore said. “They spent two full days verifying the documentation. They were impressed with our community partnerships, social services and our screenings.”
Bloomfield is currently contracted to provide health services to Glen Ridge, West Milford, Lincoln Park, Caldwell and Mountain Lakes.
As a consequence of the successful effort needed to gain accreditation, Lore said other municipal health departments have been contacting Bloomfield to find out what they had to go through and what lessons were learned.
“Most surprising for us,” Lore said, “was that we knew the accreditation standards were high. But the depth of it and the amount of work to go through the process, we underestimated. For the standards and measures, they looked at every area in a detailed way we were not anticipating. We had hundreds if not thousands of internal documents that we had to review. And everything the department did had to be spelled out, and that our ability to communicate to the public and elected officials went all the way up, down and out — how we communicate to all residents and not just to pockets of people.”
Lore said a national accreditation process is about promoting a culture of health where, for instance, walking and biking are a viable way of getting around. But for that to be realized, residents have to live in a safe environment. That, Lore said, directly connects law enforcement and health.
“Health is not just about an individual’s behavior,” she said. “It has to be addressed at different levels and make the healthy choice the easy choice and not the hard choice.”
Lore said the cost for accreditation was minimal, with funding provided by Partners in Health and the New Jersey Department of Health.