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‘All nurses have a role to play in tackling public health problems’

An academic sees a role for all nurses in tackling public health inequalities as his university prepares to launch a new education module.
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All nurses have a role in tackling public health inequalities, according to a nursing academic whose university is launching a new education module on population health.

Edinburgh Napier University reader in nursing Iain Atherton is hoping uptake for the population health for practitioners course will be high when it launches next January.

The module will aim to get nursing students in all specialities to think about how to prioritise their work to effect changes in attitudes to issues such as smoking and obesity.

It will be part of a wider masters-level degree in health and social care integration which starts again this September.

Speaking to Nursing Standard, Dr Atherton said: The issues we face in Scotland mirror almost identically not just what is happening to the population in England,

All nurses have a role in tackling public health inequalities, according to a nursing academic whose university is launching a new education module on population health.


Nurses have a ‘huge role to play’ in addressing public health issues. Picture: SPL

Edinburgh Napier University reader in nursing Iain Atherton is hoping uptake for the population health for practitioners course will be high when it launches next January.

The module will aim to get nursing students in all specialities to think about how to prioritise their work to effect changes in attitudes to issues such as smoking and obesity.

It will be part of a wider master’s-level degree in health and social care integration which starts again this September.

Speaking to Nursing Standard, Dr Atherton said: ‘The issues we face in Scotland mirror almost identically not just what is happening to the population in England, but also internationally: smoking and obesity; combining with social inequality and wide geographic variations in access to health services and outcomes afterwards.

Role for nurses

‘There is a huge role for nurses to play in addressing all these issues, regardless of if their speciality is public health or not.

‘Whether they work in an emergency department, acute care, or community settings, nurses of all types have the ideal opportunity because they have the most access to people.

‘Even the smallest changes a nurse makes to how they prioritise their work can have a massive impact.’

Research group

It is 18 months since Dr Atherton and his team set up a population and public health research group to explore ways of bringing about these changes in the most practical way possible.

Writing in a recent blog for The Scotsman he said: ‘Inevitably the priority for nurses is the “here and now”; they are under pressure to deal with pressing and immediate demands. Yet, recognition of pressing population health issues and the efficacy of interventions, can encourage nurses to reflect on the potential of their role. Actions today can reduce pressure tomorrow.’

Dr Atherton also welcomed the Scottish Government’s decision to contribute a further £2.5 million to the funding of education and training for practice nurses specifically aimed at public health improvement in Scotland.

The new module will be available to study as a stand-alone subject.


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