Florida Dept. of Health is first to achieve national accreditation

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The Florida Department of Health (DOH) has been a long standing partner of the USF College of Public Health. This year that bond grows stronger with the DOH’s recent accreditation.

In March, the DOH became the first in the nation to achieve national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB)’s integrated local public health department system application.

FDOH Logo

The DOH’s state health office in Tallahassee, in addition to all 67 local health departments, became accredited as a one centralized system. This effort required a huge undertaking by both central office and local health department staff and the various PHAB site reviewers.

“Obtaining accreditation status demonstrates our collective efforts to continuously improve the quality and performance of the public health services we provide on a daily basis to our local community,” said Douglas Holt, MD, USF Health professor of medicine and director of the DOH in Hillsborough County.

Becoming accredited means that the central office and all local health departments have met the standards and measures needed to provide quality, value-driven services to Florida residents that adhere to public health principles and core functions.

“Participating in the accreditation journey at DOH-Hillsborough was a valuable process.  It demonstrates our commitment to continuous quality improvement of the services we provide, which in return, helps to improve the health of Hillsborough County residents,” said Daragh Gibson, an USF COPH alumna and senior human services program specialist at the DOH in Hillsborough County.

Accreditation + FE = A win for students

Field Experience (FE) is a practicum open to COPH graduate students under the supervision of a preceptor and guidance of the student’s academic faculty advisor. FE is one of the culminating experiences and a graduation requirement for students who are earning an MPH, MHA, or an MSPH in Industrial Hygiene.

Many COPH students have completed or are currently completing their FE’s at various sites within the DOH.

“Over the years, hundreds of students have practiced their passion with the Florida Dept. of Health,” said Natalie Preston, MPA, former COPH field experience manager. “From Bay County to Miami-Dade, the DOH is a wonderful academic partner for the college and the accreditation will only strengthen the quality of experiences for our students.”

The DOH have been mentoring COPH students through their FE’s since the Fall of 2016.

Here’s a sampling of what graduate students are embarking on this summer with the DOH.

COPH student Natalie Shrenker in front of the Florida Department of Health Women, Infants and Children’s Office (Photo courtesy of Natalie Shrenker).

COPH student Natalie Shrenker in front of the Florida Department of Health Women, Infants and Children’s Office (Photo courtesy of Natalie Shrenker).

“As a student pursuing my master’s in public health, with an undergraduate degree in nutrition, I thought field experience at the DOH in Hillsborough County in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Office would be perfect for my interest,” said Natalie Shrenker, a graduate student in the Department of Community and Family Health.

Five weeks into her summer placement, she was able to shadow nutrition and breastfeeding certified educators as well as a dietitian at a STD clinic, participated in a breastfeeding class, attended both a management and a vendor meeting, and lead the next-day presentation in lieu of her preceptor.

“So far my experience with WIC has been amazing,” Shrenker said. “I still have few more weeks ahead of me and am excited to see more of WIC!”

COPH DrPH student Catherine Blackburn and colleagues: (From left) Amber Warren, Rema Ramakrishnan, Shana Geary, Catherine Blackburn, and Dr. Jennifer Marshall (Photo courtesy of Catherine Blackburn).

COPH student Catherine Blackburn and colleagues: (From left) Amber Warren, Rema Ramakrishnan, Shana Geary, Catherine Blackburn, and Dr. Jennifer Marshall (Photo courtesy of Catherine Blackburn).

“My summer 2016 field experience has been spent working on Dr. Jennifer Marshall’s Florida Safe Sleep Evaluation Team in partnership with the Florida Department of Health,” said Catherine Blackburn, an MPH student in the Department of Community and Family Health.

She and her team have been reviewing the literature on evidence-based intervention and education programs to promote safe sleep practices to prevent sleep-related infant deaths, such as accidental suffocation and sudden unexpected infant death (SUID) prevention. Additionally, they have catalogued current safe sleep interventions and programs in Florida by county.

“We are planning on GIS mapping Florida counties that are at high-risk for SUID deaths, interviewing staff from programs who have demonstrated reductions in death rates and disparities, engaging a national expert advisory panel, and will compile a comprehensive report communicating the results and recommendations for Florida,” Blackburn said.

COPH MPH student, Nicole Clenney, contributes statistical analyses and articles to the FDOH in Pinellas County’s HIV/AIDS Statistics quarterly newsletter (Photo from FDOH).

COPH student, Nicole Clenney, contributes statistical analyses and articles to the FDOH in Pinellas County’s HIV/AIDS Statistics quarterly newsletter (Photo from FDOH).

Nicole Clenney, an MPH student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, is completing her field experience with the DOH in Pinellas County in the HIV/AIDS Surveillance office under the supervision of Beth Sudduth, DOH Area 5 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program Manager.

Clenney is creating statistical fact sheets using Pinellas and Pasco County data. The fact sheets highlight how HIV affects different minority groups, age groups, and groups who partake in different risk factors for HIV, for example injection drug users, male to male sexual contact, and heterosexual sexual contact.

Along with creating statistical fact sheets, Clenney is completing a 10-year trend analysis on persons over the age of 50 living with HIV/AIDS. She’s stratifying the data by race/ethnicity, sex, and mode of transmission to see which groups are the most affected by HIV.

“This age group tends to have more cases than expected because they are less likely to use protection as there is no risk of pregnancy. They also attribute common HIV or AIDS symptoms to just “getting old” and do not suspect they have HIV,” she said.

Clenney performs quarterly statistics and contributes articles for their quarterly newsletter and is also learning surveillance techniques, such as making calls to healthcare providers, and observes the surveillance staff inputting the information into the HIV database.

“With my HIV/AIDS Surveillance interns we also give them first-hand experience in data analysis and writing up newsletters and/or reports,” Sudduth said. “We want them to understand that evaluation and research is key to learning what the trends are in the past and what we might need to do to improve our programs to ensure a successful outcome for the future.”

“It’s going great so far, I’m learning a great deal about surveillance in general, specifically HIV surveillance. I am glad I decided to do my field experience here!” Clenney said.

Sudduth wants to encourage every student to get these up-close experiences working within a public health system.

“I believe that the DOH’s accreditation process this past year has helped to improve and  strengthen our local health departments across Florida as it brought various programs and staff together to ensure that we were providing all of the essential public health services to our clients and citizens in a uniform way,” Sudduth said. “The USF MPH students who have interned with me over the past ten years have seen first-hand how we integrate classroom work into real-life situations. They see how we need to monitor the health of the community through cooperation between private and public agencies and how we need to intervene to stop the spread of certain diseases and/or unhealthy behaviors.”

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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