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Kanawha-Charleston Health Department starts accreditation process

By Candace Nelson

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."

The first batch of accreditation occurred in November 2012 with 11 local health departments and two state health departments across the nation awarded with the achievement. The Kanawha-Charleston has been and will continue to work with them throughout the accreditation process.

Gupta hopes to serve as an example for other health departments.

"We want to encourage others to follow suit. One of the intentions is to achieve accreditation and work with and assist other local health departments and our state health department," he said.

Tom Sims, who was hired by the department to coordinate the accreditation, said about six people have been working on pulling together the application.

He will continue to work on the accreditation process, which will happen every five years.

"If they accept, we will have to provide documentation over a several-month period. Once we are accredited, we have five years before we have to be accredited again. So, we have to continue to send them updates and documentation," Sims said.

Sims said two other health departments -- in Raleigh County and Greenbrier County -- are actively in the process of filing out applications.

Gupta said financial assistance and resources are available for others interested in the accreditation.

"Whether it's receiving national awards, working with the Affordable Care Act or being able to achieve accreditation, it's all part and parcel of being an exemplary health department in the nation," he said.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/Candace07.


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