Role of Nursing in Public Health


The term Public Health Nursing was invented by Lillian Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement, to put emphasis on the community value of the nurse whose work, was built upon an understanding of all the problems that invariably accompanies the ills of the poor. PH nursing practice went beyond simply caring for patients and their families during illness instead it encompasses an agenda of reform in health care.

Its perspective aims to improve the health outcomes of all populations. To be able to apply their clinical knowledge and expertise in health care from an ecological perspective, acknowledges the complexity of PH problems and the contextual nature of health including cultural, environmental, historical, physical, and social factors. PH nurses apply systems-level thinking, to assess the potential or actual assets, needs, opportunities, and inequities of individuals, families, and populations and translate this assessment into action for public good.

Definition of PH Nursing
It is the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and PH sciences. It focuses on improving population health by emphasizing prevention, and attending to multiple determinants of health.

Role of PH Nurses
The role of nurses extended beyond just caring for the sick but also to include advocacy for proper health practices and promote healthy environment to communities through health education. They become teachers of healthful living and disease prevention. Their aim is to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life not on specific individuals but among the population as a whole.

As one medical authority suggested, they are the relay station to carry the power from the control stations of science, the hospital, and the university to the individual homes of the community. They become participants in the growing specialization of the medical profession.

Examples of PH Nursing Activities


Evaluating health trends and risk factors of population groups and help to determine priorities for targeted interventions.
Working with communities or specific population groups within the community to develop public policy and targeted health promotion and disease prevention activities.
Participating in assessing and evaluating health care services to ensure that people are informed of available programs and services and assisted in the utilization of those services.
Providing essential input to interdisciplinary programs that monitor, anticipate, and respond to PH problems in population groups.
Providing health education, care management, and primary care to individuals and families who are members of vulnerable population and high-risk groups.

Elements of Practice
Key characteristics of practice include:

focus on the health needs of an entire population, including inequities and the unique needs of sub-populations;
assessment of population health;
attention to multiple determinants of health;
an emphasis on primary prevention;
and application of interventions at all levels – individuals, families, communities, and the systems that impact their health.

Even though direct services to individuals and families is more often their line of care, they view individual and family care from the perspective of the community and/or the population as a whole.