Background: Over the past decade, quality improvement (QI) has become a major focus in advancing the goal of improving performance of local health departments (LHDs). However, limited empirical data exists on the current implementation of QI initiatives in LHDs and factors associated with adoption of QI initiatives.
Objectives: (1) To examine the current implementation of QI implementation initiatives by LHDs and (2) to identify factors contributing to LHDs' decision to implement QI initiatives.
Methods: In this study, a novel theoretical framework based on analysis of QI in medicine was applied to analyze QI by LHDs. LHDs' QI adoption was assessed by the number of formal QI projects reported by LHDs that responded to module 1 of the 2010 National Profile of Local Health Department Study (Profile Study) conducted by the National Association of County & City Health Officials. The Profile Study data were merged with data from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Area Resource Files and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials' 2010 Survey. Logistic regression analyses were conducted using Stata 11 SVY procedure to account for the complex sampling design.
Results: The Profile Study data indicated that about 73% of the LHDs reported implementing 1 or more QI projects. LHDs with large jurisdiction population (>50 000), higher per capita public health expenditure, a designated QI staff member, or prior participation in performance improvement programs were more likely to have undertaken QI initiatives.
Conclusion: According to the Profile Study, more than a quarter of LHDs surveyed did not report implementing any formal QI projects. Greater investments in QI programs and designation of QI staff can be effective strategies to promote QI adoption. The validity of the definition of a formal QI project needs to be established. More research to identify the barriers to successful QI implementation at LHDs is also needed.