The Value of Nursing in Building a Culture of Health (Part 1)

At a nursing home, a nurses' aide sits with a senior who is drinking a glass of water.

This policy brief showcases nurses’ roles in recognizing and addressing the social determinants of health, and their present-day contributions to prevention and health-promotion.

The Issue

There is a growing recognition that health depends largely on what happens outside of health care settings. Nurses were among the pioneers who first ventured into the community to ameliorate the conditions that bring about illness and injury, and they continue to do this vital work today.

Key Findings

  • Nurse innovators in the primary care arena are transforming communities by stepping outside the clinic to engage clients in healthy activities.

  • Nurses are reducing the use of emergency care by helping vulnerable individuals manage their chronic conditions, receive appropriate care for non-emergency health events, and connect with preventive and social services.

  • School nurses play a pivotal role in creating healthy school environments and bridging the gaps between education, health care, and public health.

  • Nurses sit at the helm of roughly one-third of local and county health departments, and some of them have risen to become leaders at the state and national levels.


Nurses are educated to consider the social determinants of health alongside patients’ medical concerns. This perspective informs the work they do in homes, schools, and other community-based settings to improve health across the lifespan.

To view content after June 2017, visit Charting Nursing's Future at its new home on the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action website.

About the Series

For ten years, Charting Nursing’s Future has assembled research and expert opinion to inform readers about policies and best practices that are transforming nursing, health care, and public health.