[Blog] Building a Foundation for Public Health Excellence through Capacity Assessment

(July 18, 2023)

Community wellness is a deep cultural value and is central to Tribal and Territorial Health Departments’ (THD) mission.  Recent threats from a global pandemic and the climate crisis highlight the importance of THD leadership and capacity to protect the community’s health. 

The THD Guide to Assessing Public Health Capacity: A Collaborative Approach is a tool for understanding a THD’s systems, processes, and policies in order to build capacity and improve health.  It was developed based on Red Star’s experience working with numerous THDs nationwide. It provides the essential steps to engage staff and partners to assess performance, and can be customized to meet departmental goals, including public health accreditation.

Red Star International’s guide offers a team approach assessing capacity using national standards based on the 10 Essential Services of Public Health.  Here are the steps:

Step 1: Initial preparation – This involves determining how the assessment will be organized, who will be involved, when it will be completed and how assessment results will be used.

Step 2: Conduct the assessment – Collect the relevant documentation of performance, such as policies, procedures, and data, and evaluate capacity using a set of standards and measures.

Step 3: Identify and analyze strengths and improvement opportunities – Examine identified strengths and gaps, and discuss what factors contributed to it both.  

Step 4: Prioritize areas for improvement – Determine which improvement opportunities are most critical and prioritize them based on their impact on public health outcomes and the THD’s capacity to address them.

Step 5: Develop and implement a work plan to address performance gaps – Create a comprehensive plan outlining the actions, timelines, and responsibilities required to address improvement areas. 

This capacity assessment guide is a companion to Red Star’s Tribal and Territorial Health Department Public Health Capacity Assessment Workbook 2023.  The workbook is an Excel-based tool to record capacity scores based on the Public Health Accreditation Board standards and measures. Once the assessment is completed, the workbook automatically creates a visual snapshot of a THD’s current capacity strengths and gaps.

Red Star honors the importance of direct experience, interconnectedness, and relationship.  Our approach to health systems transformation aims to holistically address the social and cultural determinants of health through. 

Learn how this public health capacity assessment can be used as part of an overall Approach to Healing and Transforming Tribal Health Systems through Performance Management.