To live up to our commitment to promote and protect the health of all, governmental public health systems must work to promote equity and to reduce disparities. This is done by centering equity, modernizing data systems, and equipping our health departments with foundational capabilities to serve their communities. Through accreditation and innovation at the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), significant work is being done to transform public health practice and communities across the country.

Equity is emphasized in Version 2022 of the PHAB Standards & Measures. These requirements for accrediting health departments are aligned with the 10 Essential Public Health Services. Public health services should actively promote policies, systems, and practices that create conditions where all people can thrive, and remove structural barriers that result in health inequities, such as poverty, racism, and discrimination. By infusing equity in all domains of Version 2022 of the Standards & Measures, PHAB is encouraging health departments to focus on advancing equity in their communities..

To serve our communities equitably, health departments need access to modern, real-time, hyperlocal data and tools. These are critical in understanding the needs of our communities, making data-driven decisions that address community priorities, and transforming public health infrastructure. Governmental public health in the United States currently lacks modern data systems and structures to do this, which have had a direct and negative impact on health and equity. PHAB’s innovation division, the Public Health National Center for Innovations (PHNCI) is expanding its scope to focus on data modernization efforts as part of the 21st Learning Community (21C) initiative and engage up to three 21C state public health systems to begin implementing recommendations from the RWJF National Commission to Transform Public Health Data Systems.

And modern data is essential within all capabilities described in the Foundational Public Health Services (FPHS) framework. The FPHS framework outlines the unique responsibilities of governmental public health and defines the minimum set of services that must be available in every community. Several states are working to transform their governmental public health system using this framework as part of the 21C initiative. As Foundational Capabilities are being addressed at this level, PHAB has also identified and infused Foundational Capabilities in Version 2022 of its Standards & Measures and Pathways, a PHAB recognition program to support health departments on their performance improvement journey. This helps strengthen accountability, ensure necessary services are provided within communities, and builds a public health infrastructure for optimal health and safety for all.

Federal funding coupled with renewed commitments to achieving health equity presents an opportunity for transformation in public health, at all levels. PHAB’s national accreditation program and PHNCI’s focus on public health innovation offers the chance to strengthen health departments and advance public health practice to create conditions for all communities to thrive.