RCN congress

England's top public health nurse urges nurses to champion prevention work

Nurses have a vital leadership role in developing personalised public health services for their local population, according to Public Health England’s chief nurse Viv Bennett.

Viv Bennett John Houlihan

Speaking to delegates at RCN congress in Bournemouth yesterday, Professor Bennett said nurses must play their part in promoting public health and prevention if the inequalities gap in health across the UK is to be reduced.

She said the four UK chief nursing officers have commissioned her to undertake work on maximising nurses’ contribution to improving public health outcomes.

‘We need to understand the wider determinants of poor public health and the way in which people live so that we can give relevant care and advice,’ she said.

‘It is a great opportunity for us to be right at the leading edge of this work.’

She outlined her three-point plan for improving public health: targeted prevention, engaging communities and establishing new models of care. She also set out three approaches for nurses, which are prevent avoidable illness, protect health and promote wellbeing.

‘We are a big, big profession and can be part of tilting the focus to include prevention as much as treatment,’ she said. ‘We can support nurses to go into health promotion as a very valid part of the profession.’

She said a great deal of work had been done on public health and prevention but said it is not always publicised, adding: ‘We need to be a lot more visible to show our prevention work and measure the impact on public health.’