While population health improvements such as control of infectious diseases, motor vehicle safety, and tobacco cessation have continued into the 21st century, key health outcomes in the U.S. such as life expectancy have fallen behind other industrialized nations.
A recent commentary in Nursing Outlook coauthored by Jacqueline Merrill, PhD, professor of nursing in biomedical informatics, proposes a solution: Nurses join together with public health professionals and public policy makers to create a stronger public health infrastructure.
For example, Merrill proposes that nurses can work within their practices or organizations to ensure that standardized electronic health record data are made available to public health officials to identify population health problems such as preventable hospital admissions among groups with complex health needs. They can then partner with public health leaders to create community-based strategies to keep people out of the hospital.
This commentary is intended to lay the groundwork for a future formal position statement from the American Academy of Nursing (AAN). Dean Bobbie Berkowitz currently serves as AAN president.
“The authors of this paper are public health nurses who are interested in raising awareness within nursing and the health professions, and among the public at large, on the enhanced role the public health system plays in preventing disease and promoting health so the nation can reach the goals of lower cost, better care, and better health for all,” said Merrill. “We also want to raise an alarm that, in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, numbers of public health workers are at an all-time low nationwide.”