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Nurses know that healthcare is in a crisis with soaring costs and rising epidemics of preventable diseases. Many nurses are calling for change to mobilize nurses in a nationwide effort. They propose that leadership provided by a 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 that the existing Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the US Public Health Service (USPHS), who also serves as the Assistant Surgeon General, be elevated to become a full time position within the Office of the Surgeon General and be officially designated the National Nurse for Public Health. Our 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:

  • Current estimates predict a 42% increase in the 7 chronic diseases.
  • Risk of type II diabetes is high for more than 79 million Americans.
  • $1.3 TRILLION annual economic impact of the most common chronic diseases.
  • The U.S. ranks 19th worldwide in preventable deaths.

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

  • Only 31% of Americans can name all 5 heart attack warning signs.
  • Ninety million Americans have poor health literacy resulting in higher mortality.
  • Death rates from stroke are 40% higher in African American adults compared to Caucasian adults.

To promote health careers and increased resources:

  • Severe nursing shortages are projected to continue.
  • 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.

References and a list of the CNO‘s current duties are both available on request