Public Health


Public health nurses comprise the largest professional segment of the public health workforce. They play an essential role in improving the population’s health and delivering essential health services to communities but, until recently, little has been known about the size, preparation, and makeup of these nurses.

To better understand the characteristics of the public health nursing workforce, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Future of Public Health Nursing initiative to identify and implement strategies to increase the skills and ability of public health nurses to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing health and health care environment.

The Initiative’s “Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nurse Workforce” is the first comprehensive assessment of the public health nurse workforce.  Conducted by the University of Michigan Center of Excellence in Public Health Workforce Studies, it offers a snapshot of the size, composition, educational background, experience, retirement intention, job function, and job satisfaction of RNs who work for state and local health departments.


Past issues of Charting Nursing's Future have highlighted nursing's unique contributions to assuring the public's health, including how nurse leaders in policymaking positions are transforming public health.

Read "Strengthening Public Health Nursing" Part One and Part Two.

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The Faces of Public Health Nursing

Helping One Person at a Time

Anneleen Severynen, a public health nurse in Washington state, writes about her work on a mobile medical unit that provides for the health care needs of homeless individuals.

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Public Health Nurse Helps Nation's Most Vulnerable

RWJF Scholar treats the kind of people he grew up with: the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.

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Expert Discusses New Data on America’s Public Health Nursing Workforce

Paul Kuehnert, team director of Public Health at RWJF, discusses the findings of the Enumeration and Characterization of the Public Health Nurse Workforce.

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In what many believe to be a first-of-its-kind program, Pima County (Arizona) libraries teamed up with the county Health Department to start a jointly-funded “library nurse program.”

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RWJF Fellow Works to Push Public Health Nursing Forward

Executive Nurse Fellow Shirley Orr joins national effort to strengthen public health nursing at a time of challenge and opportunity.

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