Apr 05, 2016

“Nurses Are Critical in Promoting Health and Healthy Living”

In honor of National Public Health Week 2016, Breakthrough Leader in Nursing Renee’ Menkens, MS, RN offers some reflections on the role of nurses in public health and how she is working to build a healthier America. 

The role of the nurse in public health is critical in improving America’s health and requires involvement in the communities in which we live. As nurses, we can help identify health care needs in our communities and work in partnership with others from all sectors of our community to improve the health of our communities. Over the past five years, I have had the opportunity to work with my county Community Improvement Plan (CHIP) as a coalition member to improve the health of county residents. It is a process that nurses need to be part of as we present a view and perspective on health that others may not have. It is also important for nurses to be at the table with representatives from schools, government, worksites, health agencies, tribal and ethnic communities and others to look critically at the needs of our community and identify ways to make a difference to improve the health of our communities.

Nursing professionals are critical players in this process, not only because of our role as direct care providers, but because of our focus on population health and how to support healthy behaviors in our communities and across systems of care. I personally want to see my county as a healthier place to live. We currently have a higher rate of obesity, cancer and chronic illness than many other counties in our state, and the work of the CHIP and its subcommittees on healthy eating and active living, commercial tobacco cessation, access to health care providers, prenatal care and suicide prevention will make a difference. As a nurse I am part of this process and as CHIP coalition member I can make a difference in improving the health of my county.

As an Oregon Action Coalition steering committee member and a member of the leadership subcommittee, I can also make a difference statewide in helping nurses see that part of their role as professionals is to become involved in their communities to improve the health of all. Being on boards of directors, being active in community initiatives and being engaged in community groups to improve health is important. This is something all nurses should see as critical to our professional roles. Nurses support individuals, families and communities to improve health. We are critical in promoting health and healthy living in our communities, state and nation and need to be visible in these roles as professionals.

Photo Caption: Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing and Oregon Action Coalition members Jake Creviston, MN, RN, PMHNP, DNP and Renee Menkens, MS, RN.