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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 diseases:

  • The U.S. obesity epidemic continues to worsen. In 2015-2016 the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million of US adults.
  • A 2018 study found that an average of 8.2 percent of Medicaid dollars go to treating obesity—with some states spending more than 20 percent of their Medicaid dollars on treating obesity and related illnesses.
  • Six in ten Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes. live with at least one chronic disease like heart disease, cancer, stroke, or diabetes.
  • In 2015, the economic cost of the opioid crisis was $504.0 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP that year. This is over six times larger than the most recently estimated economic cost of the epidemic.

Promote health awareness, increase health literacy, and reduce health disparities:

  • Just 12 percent of U.S. adults had proficient health literacy.
  • Over a third of U.S. adults—77 million people have difficulty with common health tasks, such as following directions on a prescription drug label.
  • Infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C are more prevalent among Black Americans who account for 22 percent of Hepatitis C cases, despite only making up around 13% of the U.S population.

To promote health careers and increased resources:

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.