BATH – An ambitious joint effort by the public health departments in Steuben County and neighboring counties means those counties could receive national accreditation by early 2018. County Public Health Director Darlene Smith recently told the county Legislature’s Human Services, Health and Education Committee S2AY Network members -- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates, Seneca , Wayne and Ontario counties – are engaged in the process of seeking national recognition of their local public health programs. Originally formed in 1997, S2AY works to promote, coordinate and expand elements of rural public health services. The national endorsement will provide Steuben and the other counties a way to measure their performance against a set of nationally recognized, evidence-based standards, according to Smith. Smith told the legislative committee the counties are sharing the cost of the $20,000 application, with accreditation bringing the group the following benefits:
*National recognition for public health practice.
*An opportunity to engage the public health workforce.
*Access to network of public health experts.
*Focus on improving the health department.
*Potential access to new funding streams.
*Potential streamlining of grant reporting.
*Participation in developing a strong data base for exploring best practices. The methodical process for national certification of the six counties began in 2015 and includes a state-required community health assessment and a state-required improvement plan in each county, along with a strategic plan to meet public health goals, she said. "It’s proving to be a lot of work," Smith told the committee. "But we believe in the end, it will be well worth it."