Leveraging Public Health Nursing to Build a Culture of Health

As major contributors to a Culture of Health, public health nurses can help lead the effort to build a health system that not just prevents disease but that values and promotes health for everyone.

The Issue:
Public health nurses contribute to improving population-based health outcomes by providing reliable information on health and safety, and promoting early detection of common diseases. Low wages, an aging workforce, and lack of nursing school faculty to train the next generation of public health nurses threaten the efforts of these nurses to contribute to a health system that prevents disease and promotes health.

Public health nurses must help to lead efforts to build a Culture of Health, which the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) defines as shifting the values—and the actions—of this country so that health and healthy decisions become a part of everything Americans do.

Susan Hassmiller, PN, PhD, RWJF’s senior adviser for nursing, suggests in this essay three areas where public health nursing can be enhanced to realize that vision.

  • Education—public health should provide additional education and training opportunities to assure we have a diverse and well-educated nurse workforce.
  • Leadership—with their focus on families and communities, public health nurses bring a different perspective to inform new health system models. In that capacity they should advocate for health promotion and prevention policies and activities that reduce disparities.
  • Research—public health nursing programs will find more funding support when the effects of their interventions are shown through evidence-based research.

Hassmiller writes, public health nursing...

...must strengthen nursing education, promote leadership, and foster research to build a Culture of Health that will enable all in our diverse society to lead healthy lives, now and for generations to come.”