Northampton teamwork reaps reward

Published 3:54 pm Saturday, January 16, 2010

JACKSON — Teamwork has led to a huge accomplishment for the Northampton County Health Department.

On Thursday evening, North Carolina Institute of Public Health (NCIPH) officials presented Health Department Director Sue Gay with a plaque recognizing her department’s achievement of state accreditation.

NCIPH Accreditation Coordinator David Stone and State Accreditation Coordinator Brittan Williams Wood joined the Northampton County Board of Health, health department employees and county officials in celebrating the accomplishment at a small gathering at the Faison Administrative Building Auditorium.

“Accreditation is an important aspect that we do recognize,” said Stone, Accreditation Administrator of NCIPH. “Accreditation is a status that meets or exceeds basic standards.”

In July, the Northampton County Health Department became one in 50 accredited health departments in the state, after nearly a year of work by a team of 11 employees. Among those on the team included five core staff representatives from environmental health, health education, administration, clinical nursing and management support and preparedness coordinating. The department met 147 of 148 benchmarks.

The focus of the North Carolina Local Health Department Accreditation program is on the capacity of the local health department to perform at a prescribed, basic level of quality, the three core functions of assessment, assurance, and policy development and the 10 essential services as detailed in the National Public Health Performance Standards Program. The program focuses on a set of minimal standards that must be provided to ensure the protection of the health of the public, but does not limit the services or activities an agency may provide to address specific local needs.

Stone said accreditation certifies to the public and the state that Northampton County’s Health Department is meeting the services and standards for the citizens it serves.

“This is not an end point; really it’s a start,” he said referencing the ever evolving field of public health. “Accreditation helps our strengths and facilitates improvements. It provides, as a system, accountability…it helps us see ways to improve ourselves.”

Stone noted the long list of benchmarks the health department had to meet. Out of 148, only one was missed—a date left out of an environmental complaint log. Despite the missing date, Stone said what had been worked for was “quite an achievement.

Gay said teamwork was at the heart of her department achieving accreditation. She added the board of health along with every other county agency had input and all were very supportive along with the Northampton County Board of Commissioners.

“So it has taken all of us and it has created that team atmosphere,” she said.

Board of Health Chair Bill Futrell said having a quality health department has been there all along.

“We’ve always known we have a top-notch Health Department and were now being recognized for it,” he said.

Northampton County Commission Chair Fannie Greene along with Commission Vice Chair James Hester and County Manager Wayne Jenkins commended the Board of Health and the health department for their achievement.

Greene said as she watched the presentation she thought of the county employee recognition program the commissioners are involved with.

“This is an example of what kind of work we’re doing,” she said.