Public Health Activities and Services

The public health activities and services website is an online data resource listing what public health does and how much of it is done across all 35 local health agencies and the Department of Health in Washington State each year. The website allows a user to view activities of interest by year and by jurisdiction.

The Public Health Improvement Partnership, which governs and guides this effort, was charged by the 2007 legislature to identify and develop a way to count public health activities consistently and over time. The first pilot inventory was conducted in 2008, capturing a sample of public health activities and services provided across the state. The following year the survey tripled in size with many new items added to the list. The Public Health Activities and Services Inventory has been conducted annually since then.

The database is also designed to work in conjunction with Standards for Public Health, Washington’s efforts to improve the quality and performance of all 35 local health agencies and the Department of Health, and the Public Health Indicators, a snapshot of health status, health behavior, and public health system performance at the local level. Together, the three measurements of the public health system provide a picture of what public health does, how healthy we are across the state, and the processes we use to improve public health in Washington.

Creating the activities and services list
How to navigate the site

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The public health activities and services list is the work of the state's Public Health Activities and Services Workgroup.

The workgroup has been working since 2007 to identify a set of public health activities and services that could be used to help describe what the public health system does in Washington and to know how much of each activity is done each year. 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 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.

Each year the workgroup approves the final inventory before the data collection begins. At the end of each annual collection cycle the workgroup considers amending the list by removing or adding items.

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The public health activities and services site is designed to present local data for each of Washington’s local public health jurisdictions and from programs at the Department of Health.

The Data By Topic show the inventory items in the general groups of Environmental 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 2013.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. Where the items are defined consistently the 2008 pilot data is included in the website.

To view local data in more detail, click on Data By Jurisdiction and select an individual county or 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, t