Building a strong foundation of public health infrastructure.

Health departments provide public health protections in a number of areas, including: preventing the spread of communicable disease, ensuring food, air, and water quality are safe, supporting maternal and child health, improving access to clinical care services, and preventing chronic disease and injury. In addition, public health departments provide local protections and services unique to their community’s needs.

The infrastructure needed to provide these protections strives to provide fair opportunities for all to be healthy and includes seven capabilities: 1) Assessment/Surveillance, 2) Emergency Preparedness and Response, 3) Policy Development and Support, 4) Communications, 5) Community Partnership Development, 6) Organizational Administrative Competencies and 7) Accountability/Performance Management. Practically put, health departments have to be ready 24/7 to serve their communities. That requires access to a wide range of critical data sources, robust laboratory capacity, preparedness and policy planning capacity, and expert staff to leverage them in support of public health protections.


Download our expanded factsheet to read more detailed definitions of the public health infrastructure and programs required for health departments to provide basic protections to the communities their serve.

Download information sheets that can be used to communicate the importance of building a strong public health infrastructure to support implementation of the foundational public health services (FPHS).

Journey to foundational public health services.

Beginning in spring 2013, the Public Health Leadership Forum, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and facilitated by RESOLVE, convened to explore a recommendation from the Institute of Medicine report, For the Public’s Health: Investing in a Healthier Future, to create a “minimum package of services;” in other words, the suite of skills, programs, and activities that must be available in state and local health departments everywhere for the health system to work anywhere, and for which costs could be estimated. The result was a conceptual framework describing both the foundation and programs that no health department should be without. Based on several years of work by 21st century states and others in the field, PHNCI has updated materials that can be used to communicate the importance of building a strong public health infrastructure to support implementation of FPHS.

Connection to public health department accreditation.

While FPHS was developed separately and for different reasons than the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB) Standards & Measures, there are areas of alignment. FPHS was developed to represent a minimum package of public health services to make the case for sustainable funding and to set a foundation for what is needed everywhere for public health to function anywhere. The PHAB Standards & Measures were developed as a tool to improve the performance and quality of public health departments.

Download a document that describes the alignment between the two efforts to support and improve governmental public health.

Additionally, PHAB has released a summary report that analyzes the performance of health departments on PHAB accreditation measures that are linked the foundational capabilities.