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Comanche Co. Health Department Tries To Be First Accredited in OK

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COMANCHE CO., Okla_ The Comanche County Health Department is one step closer to being accredited, and they'll be the first county in the state if they achieve it.

The Public Health Accreditation Board visited the department last month, looking at the efficiency of how they manage their services. The health department's new director said the accreditation will set a level of standards of excellence of how they can continue to deliver the best possible care to Comanche County residents.

Accreditation in public health is relatively new. The department began testing for this accreditation about two years ago, but they could find out if they'll be accredited in a few months. Comanche County's Health Department is one of a few in the nation that is undergoing this process.

The Comanche County Health Department offers a vast array of services, and they're not all confined to the walls of the building. New Director Brandie O'Connor said the department already works closely with other entities on public health issues. She said accreditation will allow the department to manage those issues even better.

"Flu is huge across the state and our nation," O'Connor said. "We're looking at being proactive, trying to do surveillance in schools, and things like that. Through accreditation, we're able to track those measures and look at trends. It kind of sets that standard for us. We can go back and look at the quality improvement."

She said the department had to undergo the rigorous process of fine-tuning the services it offers to the public. They had to present the data to the Public Health Accreditation Board.

"They looked at everything from how we communicate to the public, to how we engage the public, to how we engage our community trends," O'Connor said. "They looked at how we spend our money and who our checks and balances are as far as how we spend our money. They looked at how we work with our local board of health."

She said accreditation can also give the department an advantage when seeking funding.

"Obviously, if a funder is looking at two organizations, one has gone through an accreditation process and has proven they have standards of excellence, and one hasn't. The idea is that the accredited program will have a little more leverage. This is great, because we can offer more programs throughout the county."

O'Connor said the department should find out if they will be accredited in March. Until then, she said residents will continue to get the best possible care, both inside the facility and out

"You're going to see public health messages out in the community a lot more," O'Connor said. "You're going to see evidence-to-base programs in your schools and day cares. It's not a new approach in this county. You're going to see a continuation of that. We'll be engaging in community health partners, because we certainly can't do it on our own."

O'Connor said the State Health Department is also seeking accreditation. If both are achieved, Oklahoma will be the only state in the country to have state and county health department accreditations. The Cherokee Nation's Health Department is also seeking accreditation.

O'Connor said Comanche County's sexually transmitted disease rates are among the highest in the country. She said the department is trying unique ways to be proactive about reducing those numbers.

"We're working with bars and different non-traditional partners to get prevention messages out there, so we can do some prevention instead of constant treatment inside our four walls. We want to practice prevention out in the community."

She said the department will also be working on other campaigns targeting childhood obesity and smoking.

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