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The role of public health in nursing

Here, we will consider the role of public health in today’s nursing environment, and its influence on the health of the wider population.

Watch the video in which Peter Zeh, Senior Practice Diabetes Nurse, Helen Pickard, Consultant Nurse – Acute Medicine, Dee Power, Nurse Consultant Public Health England and Michael Nevill, Director of Nursing – British Pregnancy Advisory Service talk about their perceptions of public health and what public health in nursing means to them in their daily practice.

Public health at the core of all nursing practices

The World Health Organization (WHO) (2000) pledged that public health should be at the core of all nursing practice and declared that nurses today should redefine their role beyond caring for the sick, in hospitals and the community, and reclaim their public health roots.

This suggests that nurses should play an equally important role in improving people’s health and well-being, but what does this actually mean when the overall focus of practice is on the delivery of clinically rooted individualised healthcare tailored to the needs of each particular patient or client?

To begin with, this aspect of care can be a challenge and can be viewed in a number of different ways, ranging from whether a nursing contribution to public health can be made at all to a consideration of what level of contribution to public health different practitioners can make, with the distinction being: public health in nursing, nurses working in public health and public health specialists.

All nurses have a part to play

Nurses working in public health and nursing public health specialists can be employed in a range of different roles and organisations. They have often undergone additional training in public health and the focus of their practice is on promoting and protecting the public’s health.

However, all nurses have a part to play in promoting health and well-being, regardless of their role, area of practice or place of work, so how do they view their involvement in public health? Is public health a visible and integral feature of everyday nursing practice or is it considered an ‘add-on’ or the domain of specialist practice?

How can nurses demonstrate they can make a positive impact on the health of communities and play a part in influencing the health and well-being of the wider population?


Nursing and Midwifery Council Royal College of Nursing (2016) Nurse 4 Public Health: Promote, Prevent and Protect. The Value and Contribution of Nursing to Public Health in the UK: Final Report. London: Royal College of Nursing

World Health Organization (2000) Munich Declaration: Nurses and Midwives: a Force for Health 2000. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe

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Public Health and Nursing: Drive Public Health Promotion

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