The Connecticut Department of Public Health received national accreditation from the Public Health Accreditation Board last week after meeting more than 100 standards for public health.

The CTDPH is now one of 20 state health departments, including those of neighboring New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, to receive national accreditation according to the PHAB, a nonprofit organization that evaluates and certifies municipal public health departments. The CTDPH began working towards accreditation in 2013 and has since constructed a new statewide system of evaluation and reform to improve public well-being according to Kristin Sullivan, a public health services manager at the CTDPH who works on public health accreditation.

One component of that system is the State Health Improvement Plan, which was drafted in 2014 after the CTDPH evaluated the condition of public health in Connecticut. That plan was a requirement for applying for accreditation, and it emphasized the need for collaboration between government organizations to improve the state’s public health system, she said.

“You can’t improve health by one department alone, we know that,” Sullivan said. “That’s why our partnerships are so critical. We need to engage the public health system and really the health system at large.”

According to the PHAB, public health accreditation signals that a department has successfully met or exceeded set “evidence-based” standards. Strong interagency partnerships was one of the many accreditation standards, according to the DPH.

PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender said these standards and the accreditation process for public health departments are relatively new. The PHAB is the only accreditation board for public health departments and was established only a decade ago. In comparison, hospitals, schools and other municipal institutions have long had the opportunity to seek similar recognition through respective accreditation organizations, she said.

Bender said Connecticut’s accreditation is a significant feat for the state, adding that residents should feel assured by the recognition.

“If I were living in Connecticut, I would feel confidence in the state’s ability to protect public health,” she said.

The CTDPH focused on seven areas of public health in its most recent improvement plan, which sets goals for 2020. Those areas included maternal, infant and child health; chronic disease prevention and control; environmental risk factors and health; infectious disease prevention and control; injury and violence prevention; mental health, alcohol and substance abuse; and general health systems, according to Sullivan.

Sullivan said this plan is the first to respond to the PHAB’s required evaluation and improvement plan structure, but she said the CTDPH plans on repeating the process in the future.

In 2018 and 2019, the CTDPH will begin to update its data and look at any new conditions affecting the state population, according to Sullivan. She added that there is a focus on “health equity” and disparities in health — a topic that has been the subject of political controversy and national conversation with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and Republicans’ recent attempts to repeal it.

In 2020, the CTDPH will issue a new health plan based on the updated data.

Gov. Dannel Malloy recognized the state’s recent accreditation and applauded the CTDPH for its performance.

“Having an accredited state health department assures a level of accountability and credibility for Connecticut’s residents,” Malloy said in a March 21 press release. “DPH is delivering a level of service that meets high national standards and is ultimately poised to continue to improve public health in Connecticut. I commend DPH and its dedicated staff [members] for their hard work and efforts over the last several years to achieve accreditation.”