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We improve public health and population health practice to support healthier communities
Local Health Departments Are Increasingly Using Quality Improvement to Improve Agency Performance

Related Categories: Quality Improvement

Topic: Performance Management and Quality Improvement

Author: Vanessa Lamers

Date: 9/13/2017

According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) 2016 National Profile of Local Health Departments and newly released research briefs, local health departments (LHDs) across the United States have increased their implementation of agency-wide quality improvement (QI) over the past three years.
QI in public health is increasingly taking hold as a means to improve efficiency and effectiveness of programs and services. By adopting agency-wide QI, health departments are able to better assess and respond to the needs of their communities, and ultimately improve the population’s health. QI tools and methods support the strategic goals of health departments, such as achieving public health department accreditation, managing the development of individuals and teams, improving customer satisfaction, and implementing priorities in a community health improvement plan.
NACCHO16 Profile QI stats.jpg
Since the 1990s, PHF has been involved in various activities, which formed the foundation for QI in public health. Currently, QI is one of PHF’s three focus areas (the others being performance management and workforce development). PHF has a robust team of QI experts delivering QI technical assistance and training, has trained thousands of public health professionals working in hundreds of health departments on the topic, and has provided onsite assistance to over 30 percent of accredited health departments.

The NACCHO profile indicates more communities are being served by QI-minded local health departments and surpassed the Healthy People 2020 target of 25% by 2016. In 2013, the profile study showed implementation of agency-wide QI at 23% and has since risen to a 27%, or almost 800 LHDs.

If your health department is beginning to use QI tools and methods, is working to institutionalize QI, or is interested in expanding and enhancing your use of QI, PHF has a wide variety of practical resources and tools, which include public health examples of how you can use these tools in your organization.

As you embark upon or continue your QI journey, try the following featured resources:
  • Quality Improvement Quick Guide: Assess your familiarity with QI, identify your QI needs, and discover QI resources tailored to your knowledge and experience level with this Plan-Do-Check-Act Tutorial and updated resource lists.
  • Quality Improvement Tools to Advance Public Health Performance: Learn how and when to use over 30 QI tools developed and refined by PHF. These tools have been sorted into categories such as leadership development, team management, strategic planning, and several others, and include public health examples and templates to set you up for success.
  • Public Health Improvement Resource Center: Search or filter through this database of the latest resources designed to support work in performance improvement. The database contains over 600 tools, plans, services, and policies from public health departments, national organizations, small and large nonprofits, healthcare, and federal agencies.
  • Performance Management Toolkit: Learn about the performance management system framework components and how QI fits into performance management.
If you have questions about how to use any of these tools, or stories of use, please reach out to Vanessa Lamers at Want to discuss on-site technical assistance or training needs? Contact Margie Beaudry at (202)218-4415,, or submit your information online.


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Local Health Departments Are Increasingly Using Quality Improvement to Improve Agency Performance