CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is starting the process to become the first in the state with a national accreditation.
Officials filed the application Wednesday after having worked on it since 2009. The application involves three components: a community health needs assessment, a community health improvement plan and a strategic plan.
"Our mission and vision is to be a leader in the nation for public health," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department. "We want to make sure that moving forward we are able to protect the citizens of our county. This works toward that goal."
Officials held a ceremony Wednesday to mark submitting the application to the Public Health Accreditation Board. The process, which includes submitting the application, providing additional documentation, site visits and more, could take one to two years.
The accreditation will help set standards for public health and standardized care -- something that's been missing in public health until recently, Gupta said.
"The idea of accreditation is to make sure more and more populations across the nation are covered by accredited agencies in public health so services are being provided to citizens that meet or exceed the minimum standard," Gupta said.
"From a local standpoint, it's important for the citizens of Kanawha County to receive the best possible services that any citizen can receive. Nationally and statewide, it's important for us to have minimum standards. If you have a heart attack, there are minimum standards. All of health care is dictated by minimum standards, and we have not had minimum standards until recently for public health. Often, services to citizens in other counties are not the same as in another state or county."
Accreditation is voluntary at this point, but may be required in the future to securing funding, he said.
"It will help us meet the level of care we provide to citizens in our jurisdiction. It will improve the quality of programs offered within the local health departments, there is greater accountability, transparency is enhanced, and of course, credibility."