The Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, a gymnasium ran by public health offers spin classes, bootcamp and zumba for free to Cherokee Nation employees and citizens. (L to R) Cherokee Nation citizens and employees Kristen Mankiller and Bonnie Cookson take a spin class in 2016.
First tribe to earn accreditation from Public Health Accreditation BoardPublished August 25, 2016
TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation’s work creating healthier conditions for its citizens is now ranked among the best in the country, a first for any tribe.
The Cherokee Nation’s public health office received accreditation this week from the Public Health Accreditation Board.
Fewer than 200 public health agencies nationally have earned the title in the past five years. The Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to now hold that honor.
“The Cherokee Nation now has validation that the work we’re doing in public health to provide conditions that make it healthier for our Cherokee people, and protect them from harm’s way is considered by industry experts to be amongst the best there is,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The accreditation also helps ensure that the services we provide are as responsive as possible to the needs of our people and that the Cherokee Nation is demonstrating increased accountability and credibility to the public, funders, elected officials and partner organizations with which we work.”
The Cherokee Nation’s public health team has worked on initiatives such as Zika Virus preparedness planning, launching community walking groups, funding school community gardens, implementing a cancer tumor registry database and conducting research with universities on things such as triggers for childhood asthma.
The tribe’s public health also pays entry fees to 5K races and operates a gym with certified public health trainers for numerous Cherokee Nation citizens and employees for free to promote a healthier lifestyle.
Public Health agencies, including Cherokee Nation’s, promote healthy behavior, preventing diseases and injuries, ensuring access to safe food, water, clean air, and life-saving immunizations and responding to public health emergencies.
“The Cherokee Nation joins the growing ranks of accredited health departments in a strong commitment to their public health mission,” PHAB President and CEO Kaye Bender said in a statement. “The peer-review process provides valuable feedback to inform health departments of their strengths and areas for improvement, so that they can better protect and promote the health of the people they serve in their communities. Residents of a community served by a nationally accredited health department can be assured that their health department has demonstrated the capacity to protect and promote the health of that community.”
The Public Health Accreditation Board serves as the national public health accrediting body. It is jointly supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It sets standards for the nation’s nearly 3,000 governmental public health departments to continuously improve the quality of their services and performance.
The Oklahoma Department of Health, Oklahoma City county health department, Tulsa Health Department, Comanche County health department and now Cherokee Nation are the only to hold accreditation statewide.
“Our congratulations to the Cherokee Nation for achieving national public health accreditation,” said Dr. Terry Cline, Oklahoma State Department of Health Commissioner and Secretary of Health and Human Services. “As the first tribal nation in the country to achieve this accreditation, the Cherokee Nation continues a long tradition of excellence and quality in protecting and promoting health and they are to be commended for this outstanding accomplishment.”
According to the PHAB, a study at the University of Chicago found that more than 90 percent of health departments accredited for one year indicated that accreditation helped them better identify strengths and weaknesses and more than 80 percent found they improved accountability to stakeholders, while half reported it helped improve their chances for competitive funding.
“Receiving national accreditation through the PHAB is a testament to the years of quality work by our public health team at the Cherokee Nation,” said Connie Davis, executive director of public health for Cherokee Nation. “This seal of approval allows us to further improve upon our work in public health and on epidemiological issues.
Cherokee Nation’s Public Health leaders spent the past four years working on the accreditation, which involves meeting or exceeding a rigorous, peer-reviewed set of standards. Those accredited by the PHAB are considered a public health agency that ranks amongst the top.
“Achieving accreditation means we at the Cherokee Nation are cognizant of the crucial role of public health in our communities and demonstrates our ability to be a mutually-beneficial partner for all citizens,” said Cherokee Nation Sr. Director of Public Health Lisa Pivec. “We believe it communicates our serious commitment to both improving health and delivering quality public health services to all.”