Public Health Activities and Services

The Public Health Activities and Services website is an online data resource listing what the governmental public health system (35 local health agencies and the state Department of Health) does and how much of it is done each year in Washington State. It does not include everything the governmental public health system does; however, it does provide an overview of the range of activities and services essential for protecting the public and promoting health.

These data are one component of the governmental public health accountability system. The website allows a user to view activities of interest by year and by jurisdiction.

The Public Health Improvement Partnership, which initiated this effort, was charged by the 2007 legislature to identify and develop a way to count public health activities consistently and over time. The Public Health Activities and Services Inventory has been conducted annually since 2008.

In 2014, decision was made to adopt a number of national standardized measures-Multi-network Practice and Outcome Variation Examination (MPROVE) Measures- which would allow Washington State to be compared with other states.

Creating the activities and services list
How to navigate the site

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The Public Health Activities and Services list was developed by a statewide workgroup consisting of local and state public health professionals.

The workgroup identified criteria to direct selection of items for the inventory. These criteria are used to ensure that the selected items are relevant across Washington's governmental public health system and that the reported data would be valid, reliable, and accessible. Items suitable for inclusion in the inventory should have the following characteristics:

  • Defined – each item to be counted must be clearly defined in standard and specific terms that can be applied consistently across jurisdictions. For example, a restaurant inspection or home visit can be clearly defined. Participation in a coalition is vague, since it could mean anything from attendance at a meeting to a major effort at community mobilization.
  • Common – items must be activities and services delivered by a significant number of LHJs, though they need not be universal.
  • Countable – items should be relatively easy to count. For example, restaurant inspections and home visits are relatively easy to count because they are routinely documented. Items with yes/no answers (such as whether an LHJ has a chronic disease prevention work plan) are also easy to count. The number of grants received by community partners as a result of public health assessment data would be difficult to count because of the many factors involved in the success of a grant application. Some uncountable public health services are very important, but this project is about the ones that are countable.
  • Important – items should be significant activities or services of public health. For example, a drinking water advisory or outbreak investigation is significant, but the number of meetings attended by staff is usually not.
  • Collected – the information should already be collected by LHJs, DOH or other agencies. For example, the number of clients served by WIC and the number of permitted food service establishments are already counted by other agencies. The number of phone requests for information is not counted in many LHJs.
  • Frequent – items should involve services delivered frequently enough to produce meaningful annual data. For example, a count of major emergencies to which an LHJ responds would not fit in this set of items because major emergencies are relatively rare.

Since the initial workgroup is no longer in existence, each year local and state public health leaders get together and review, amend and approve the final inventory measures before data collection begins.

In 2014, leaders agreed to adopt a number of standardized measures-Multi-network Practice and Outcome Variation Examination (MPROVE) Measures- which would allow Washington State to be compared with other states. This alignment with national measures led to:

  • Ceasing of some activities and services data collection
  • Modifying some measures to ask for similar but different numbers
  • Gathering of new to this inventory activities and services counts
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The public health activities and services site is designed to present local data collected from each of Washington’s local public health jurisdictions and from select programs at the Department of Health.

The Data By Topic shows the inventory items in the general groups of Environmental Public Health, Communicable Disease, Emergency Preparedness, Healthy Family Development, Access to Care, Assessment and Prevention and Wellness.

Within each topic are several activities. The most comprehensive data set is 2014.The 2009 inventory is almost as complete as 2010. The 2008 inventory was a pilot for the project and consisted of only about a third of the inventory items identified in 2009.

To view local data in more detail, click on Data By Jurisdiction and select an individual local public health jurisdiction. The list of activities will appear again. Local data are grouped in tables consistent with the five categories listed above. Users choose which category and cycle of data they wish to view. Each table shows individual activity, the unit of measure for the data, the year the activity was conducted, and a state total.

See Technical Notes for more detailed information of data definitions and sources.