By DENISE GRANT
Hancock Public Health, the combined city-county health department now in its third year, is nearing a major milestone: national accreditation.
The health department will undergo a site visit from the Public Health Accreditation Board in June, with a decision expected by December.
That’s just in time to meet a state requirement that every health department in Ohio become nationally accredited by 2020.
Health departments not accredited by next year’s deadline could face an uphill battle securing state and federal funding, with their counties forced to pay for health services from accredited departments, said Hancock Public Health Commissioner Karim Baroudi.
The Findlay and Hancock County health departments merged into Hancock Public Health effective Jan. 1, 2016.
The health department offices are at 7748 Hancock County 140, Findlay, on the property of the former county home. A part of the main building and a portion of the “cottages” in the back are used by the department.
The need for accreditation helped drive the decision to combine the departments. Individually, the city and county health departments would have struggled for enough money and staff to earn accreditation.
For example, Baroudi said, there are about 234 documents that must be created and submitted as part of the accreditation process. Baroudi said that’s a lot of staff time.
Community health assessments, like one conducted in 2015 and again in 2018, are part of the requirements. It cost about $85,000 to conduct those assessments, Baroudi said.
Obesity and substance abuse were identified as priority health issues for Hancock County in the 2015 assessment. Results of the 2018 survey are due out soon.
Baroudi said it will probably take another assessment, in three more years, to determine any trends in the community’s health.
Baroudi and Chad Masters, director of health promotion and planning services, said the health department will be ready for the accreditation visit. Masters also serves as the health department’s accreditation coordinator.
Both men said while the accreditation process is a lot of work, it has been worthwhile.
Baroudi called it the “gold standard” of public health, and said it brings an added measure of accountability to the health department.
This year marks 100 years since health departments were first mandated in all 88 Ohio counties by the state Legislature in response to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which infected about 500 million people worldwide, nearly a third of the entire population on Earth at the time. It killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million people, including about 675,000 Americans.
Today, much of the work of health departments goes unnoticed, Baroudi said, “because we’re in the business of preventing stuff from happening.”
However, he said the health department plays a role in everyone’s life, from birth, with the recording of a birth certificate.
He said programs meant to ensure the safety of food and water, immunizations and health initiatives affect everyone.
As an accredited health department, Baroudi said Hancock Public Health will be expected to work to raise awareness of its services and coordinate efforts with partners throughout the community.
More information about Hancock Public Health is available online at www.co.hancock.oh.us/government-services/board-of-health.