Columbia Boone County Public Health makes top five in Missouri

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COLUMBIA - You expect hospitals to be accredited and your school to be accredited, so why not public health?

Before 2011, there wasn't a way to national accredit public health.

Only four local health agencies in Missouri have achieved national accreditation by the Public Health and Accreditation Board.

The Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) is now one of the four receiving national accreditation.
Assistant Director Scott Clardy said people don't always realize the importance of public health.

PHHS is the one handling the food Boone County eats every day. It is in charge of food inspections in Boone County, protecting the community from food borne illness outbreaks.

"The issue is that disease can be spread very easily through food. Someone who has certain illnesses handles food and handles it incorrectly can very easily pass some of those illnesses on to someone who consumes that food," Clardy said. "We try to teach food handlers how to handle and store food properly."

Any food handled in Boone County is inspected by PHHS at least once to three times a year. This includes gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, to bakeries.

PHHS also provides flu shots, STD testing, checks daycares and restaurants for safe environments, promotes healthy behaviors and works to prevent injuries and illnesses to name a few.

The accreditation process took PHHS about two years. During that time the department sent in 97 documents for review and had three site visits from the Public Health Accreditation Board.

Clardy said they were dealing with the Ebola crisis the same time they were getting their accreditation. He said the process helped them learn to communicate better with the community about public health issues like Ebola.

"We actually used the practices that we learned through accreditation to help us have a better response to Ebola. We could use some of our work that we did with Ebola as documentation," Clardy said.

Fewer than 200 health departments in the nation have met the accreditation standard.