Press Release

Senior Nurses launch All-Ireland Vision of Public Health

Senior nurses from the north and south of Ireland have come together for the first time to produce a nursing vision of public health throughout the island.

The ´Nursing Vision of Public Health´ views public health as incorporating organised social and political effort and health promotion. It takes account of public health policies which identify poverty as the main determinant of health, and which set as a priority the need to close the health gap between countries, and within countries.

Included among the ´pillars´ of public health which the report identifies are health as a human right; healthy public policy which helps people make healthy choices; health education; social inclusion; and community participation in decision making.

The report published today is one outcome of a series of all-Ireland nursing workshops which were held in Newry over the past year, which led to a broad consensus on the definition, scope, principles and activities of public health for nurses in Ireland.

At the launch of the report in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry, Ms Judith Hill, Chief Nursing Officer for Northern Ireland, said: “This is a unique occasion. Despite our different health care systems, there are many issues of public health that are common to the population of this island as a whole. It is important to highlight the enormous contribution that nurses make to meeting the challenge of improving the health of our people, especially to improving the health of the most marginalized and disadvantaged.”

Outlining the broad range of areas where nurses provide a vital service, and their potential to play a key role in improving public health, Ms Peta Taffe, Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health and Children, said: “Perhaps more than any other health care workers, nurses cross the boundaries between public, voluntary and private health and social care sectors. Nurses provide care in private nursing and residential homes and support families at home. They promote the health of children in public and independent schools, and provide health advice and support from the occupational health departments of private industry. Nurses are increasingly taking on leadership roles in the voluntary sector and working actively in community development, and with specific high-risk groups such as Travellers and women working in the sex industry.”

Dr Carolyn Mason, one of the authors of the ´Nursing Vision of Public Health´ report, said at today’s event: “We are keen to emphasise the unifying nature of public health as political, inter-sectoral and multi-professional effort to reduce inequalities in health. In this respect, there is huge potential for collaborative north-south action to strengthen the nursing contribution to public health. The launch of our report today represents the start of that collaborative process.”