As members of the National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education, we would like to take this opportunity to update you on our work and the process of establishing an articulated accreditation system for health education professional preparation programs that reflect the areas of responsibility for health education professionals. To begin, let us provide a historical perspective. We are now the third task force to work on the issue of academic program accreditation. The initial National Task Force on Accreditation in Health Education, chaired by Collins Airhihenbuwa and John Allegrante, met from 2001-2004. After an exhaustive process, the Task Force drew a variety of conclusions and provided a series of recommendations to the profession. These conclusions and recommendations have been published in the professional literature (Allegrante et.al., 2004).
The second task force was titled the National Transition Task Force on Accreditation in Health Education. It was chaired by Kathleen Roe and David Birch. Their mission was to transition from the initial study phase to the implementation phase. This group continued to collect data and interacted with various groups with vested interests in accreditation. They met from 2004-2006, and their work culminated in the Third National Congress for Institutions Preparing Health Educators, in Dallas, February 2006.
Late in 2006, the third task force titled the National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education was formed. In September 2007, the entire Task Force met in Reston, Va., for a two-day meeting to plan future directions. During the meeting reports were provided by several important groups to the accreditation process including the National Council for Accreditation in Teacher Education (NCATE), the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), the SOPHE AAHE Baccalaureate Program Approval Committee (SABPAC) and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). These reports helped to frame the future work of the National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education and a summary of each report follows.
NCATE, which accredits teacher education programs in health education, is expected to continue working with AAHE as the lead health education agency for school health education program accreditation. Sheila Patterson, serving as the AAHE/AAHPERD representative to NCATE, reported that AAHE is currently updating the teacher preparation standards for health education and will soon have a draft of the new standards available for review. AAHE will set up a Web site to provide opportunity for feedback. Health education professionals are encouraged to review and comment on the new standards before they are accepted and implemented. Since they already have policies and procedures in place to accredit undergraduate teacher preparation programs, they offered assistance to the committee as we move toward accreditation of undergraduate community/public health education programs.
NCHEC recently released the 5th edition of The Health Education Specialist: A Study Guide for Professional Competence, which reflects changes presented in the Competency-Based Framework for Health Educators – 2006. The first exam structured around the revised competencies occurred in October 2007. In response to recommendations from the initial National Task Force on Accreditation in Health Education, the NCHEC Board of Commissioners voted, in April 2007, to proceed with an advanced credential. NCHEC is in the process of determining how best to move forward with an advanced level of certification for health education professionals. In response to the initial Task Force’s recommendation to require graduation from an accredited program to be eligible to sit for the CHES exam, the NCHEC Board of Commissioners agreed in principle. However, there would need to be a critical mass of accredited / approved preparation programs actively preparing health educators before this recommendation could be enacted. Even then such a requirement would likely be phased in over time thus allowing all programs a reasonable opportunity to obtain accreditation. Linda Lysoby, executive director of NCHEC, reiterated their support for the work of the Accreditation Task Force.
Laura Rasar King, executive director of CEPH, provided information on the history and organization of CEPH, and future directions of this accrediting body. CEPH has already received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to expand its scope of review and accreditation to cover undergraduate programs which are affiliated with graduate public health programs, and has already granted accreditation to the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse, which offers both a MPH degree and an undergraduate degree. While the CEPH Board indicated interest in moving forward to support the accreditation of non-MPH affiliated undergraduate community health education programs, new criteria would first need to be developed and reviewed with its constituents and approved by the CEPH Board. Appropriate infrastructure, policies and procedures would also need to be developed and adopted to support this decision before it could be implemented. No specific timeline could be provided for when this might happen, but it will probably not be until sometime after 2010.
In the absence of accreditation for undergraduate community health education programs, the Accreditation Implementation Task Force is fully supporting the SABPAC approval process for all non-accredited health education programs. Ellen Capwell and Jim McKenzie co-chair the SOPHE-AAHE Baccalaureate Program Approval Committee (SABPAC). They are working to streamline and improve the approval process, and to encourage preparation programs to seek SABPAC approval as a form of quality assurance. There are now revised guidelines for program approval that are more closely in line with what may be needed for future accreditation than were the previous SABPAC guidelines (SABPAC Manual: Criteria, Process, & Procedures for Quality Assurance in Community Health Education 2007). Obtaining SABPAC approval will help programs collect, analyze and store the type of information that will most likely be needed when accreditation is available. It is expected that SABPAC approved programs will be in the best position to obtain CEPH accreditation when CEPH’s guidelines include eligibility for stand-alone undergraduate health education programs, because they will be experienced in completing program analysis and in developing student outcome assessment systems.
The Accreditation Implementation Task Force has accepted the following charge for its continued work:
“Based on the recommendations of the initial Accreditation and Transition Task Forces and informed by the Third National Profession Wide Congress in Dallas, 2006, the charge of the National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education is to help shape the processes and to continue to prepare the field for accreditation as a quality assurance mechanism for the profession.”
Based on this charge the Task Force is currently busy developing manuscripts, presentations, web-pages, webinars, and promotional materials that can be used to help the profession understand, accept and prepare for the future accreditation process. It is the intent of the task force to provide education, support, and training to help health education programs prepare for accreditation and to support as much consistency as possible across all health education accreditation activities. We also plan to work closely with CEPH to help develop the criteria, policies and procedures that will be used in the accreditation process. We welcome your comments and input, which can be sent at any time to Randy Cottrell at firstname.lastname@example.org or Kathleen Roe at email@example.com.
Randall R. Cottrell,
Co-Chair National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education
Member, National Implementation Task Force for Accreditation in Health Education
And Co-Chair, SABPAC
What to Do Now in Preparation for Accreditation
1 Attend or send a representative to the Department Head and/or Faculty Caucus Meetings at Annual and Midyear meetings, where accreditation is always discussed.
2 Attend conference sessions on accreditation and related issues at professional conferences.
3 Seek SABPAC approval for your local undergraduate program.
4 Attend an Information Session on SABPAC at SOPHE and/or AAHE conferences.
5 Volunteer to be a SABPAC site visitor (important roles for both practitioners and academics) and attend a SABPAC Site Visitor Training at AAHE or SOPHE.
6 Monitor the Web site (www.healthedaccred.org) for updates and reference material.
7 Invite a Task Force member to a local or regional meeting to discuss the move towards an articulated accreditation system in health education.
8 Talk to professional colleagues about the importance of accreditation to the health education profession.
9 Initiate student discussion about accreditation and what it will mean to health education professional preparation programs and the profession as a whole.