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Nurses know that healthcare is in a crisis with soaring costs and rising epidemics of preventable conditions ranging from obesity to opioid addiction. Many nurses are calling for change to mobilize nurses in a nationwide effort. They propose that leadership provided by the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the U.S. Public Health Service/ National Nurse for Public Health would strengthen efforts by nurses in every community to assist in initiating a nationwide shift to prevention to yield improved health outcomes.
Who Will Be the National Nurse for Public Health?
Congress will designate the same individual serving as the Chief Nurse Officer, an existing position in the U.S. Public Health Service, as the National Nurse for Public Health. The goal is to elevate and enhance the position of the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS to bring more visibility to the critical role nursing occupies in promoting, protecting, and advancing the nation's health.
What Will the National Nurse for Public Health Do?
The National Nurse for Public Health will perform those responsibilities currently being executed by the CNO and will additionally incorporate these roles more prominently:
Support the Surgeon General’s Focus on Prevention
- Assist in promoting a nationwide shift in healthcare to prevention and wellness.
- Bolster efforts to focus the public on healthy living.
- Intensify roles for nurses, including students and retirees, in community health promotion.
- Provide greater support to the Surgeon General in calling for improvements in health literacy and reduction in health disparities.
Develop Nurses as Community Health Advocates
- Encourage all nurses to spread prevention messages in their communities.
- Encourage participation of nurses in Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units.
- Provide leadership to network with existing volunteer health promotion efforts.
- Strengthen linkages with providers, nursing programs, and public health leadership.
Promote Professional Nursing
- Serve as a visible national spokesperson for public health efforts in professional nursing.
- Increase public awareness of nursing roles and contributions.
- Enhance nursing recruitment and education throughout all communities.
- Support and justify additional funding for nursing education, research and service.
Why is a National Nurse for Public Health Needed?
To slow the growing epidemics of preventable conditions:
- The U.S. obesity epidemic continues to worsen. Overall, 38% of U.S. adults and 17% of teenagers are obese.
- Four chronic diseases that are largely preventable—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.
- Risk of developing Type II diabetes is high for more than 86 million Americans.
- U.S. societal costs of opioid abuse are estimated at $53.4 billion which includes $42 billion in lost productivity, $8.2 billion in criminal justice costs, $2.2 billion in inpatient and outpatient medical costs, and $944 million due to medical complications (2%).
Promote health awareness, increase health literacy, and reduce health disparities:
- Only 31% of Americans can name all 5 heart attack warning signs.
- Just 12 percent of U.S. adults had proficient health literacy.
- The five-year survival rate for White Americans suffering from colorectal cancer is almost double the rate for African Americans.
To promote health careers and increased resources:
- The U.S. is still headed towards a nursing shortage.
- Public health workforce needs are critical.
- Public health infrastructure must be strengthened.
To enhance visibility and public recognition of nursing:
- Raise awareness of diverse careers in nursing and public health.
- Demonstrate nursing leadership and autonomy.
- Encourage youth to explore careers in nursing and healthcare.