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MSN Course Insight: Seven Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century

Study alongside Walden University students with this required reading taken from the Master of Science in Nursing degree course Role of the Nurse—Public and Global Health.

When people think of healthcare, most probably think of going to the doctor or hospital—which makes sense. In your career in nursing, you’ve likely worked in such environments, seeing one patient at a time. But good healthcare is about more than clinics and hospitals. It’s about the public health system, too.

Public health is a term used to describe both the overall health of a community and the efforts to improve/maintain that health. Instead of treating patients, most public health professionals take a holistic approach to health, implementing plans, programs, and educational initiatives designed to elevate the health of a specific community, whether that’s a neighborhood, city, nation, or other demographic.

MSN Course Insight: Seven Public Health Priorities in the 21st Century

A city-organized event that shuts down streets and encourages people to bike is a public health initiative focused on exercise. A state-sponsored billboard campaign urging immunization is a public health initiative aimed at preventing the spread of disease. A federal ban on asbestos use is a public health initiative designed to protect our health from environmental contaminants.

Nonprofits and some businesses work in public health as well, providing communities with resources like clean drinking water, fresh fruit, health-literacy programs, mobile clinics, and other services designed to help the entire community live healthier. And, yes, there are lots of nurses involved—over 34,000 of them working in state and local health departments alone.1 For many, it’s a rewarding career, giving them the ability to help entire communities live better.

But if you want to transition your nursing career into a public health career, you’ll need some specialized knowledge. In addition to a basic understanding of the public health system, you’ll need to know its priorities for the coming year. In her seminal book, Public Health Nursing: Population-Centered Health Care in the Community, Marcia Stanhope lists these priorities—a list that’s studied in Walden University’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) course Role of the Nurse—Public and Global Health.

The priorities for public health in the 21st century are:

  • Understand and emphasize the broad determinants of health.
  • Develop a policy focus on population health.
  • Strengthen the public health infrastructure.
  • Build partnerships. 
  • Develop systems of accountability.
  • Emphasize evidence-based practice.
  • Enhance communication.  

Of course, knowing what the priorities are and knowing how to meet those priorities are two different things. To be the kind of public health nurse who can truly help the system succeed, consider enrolling in an MSN program and specializing in public health nursing.

Through a master’s in nursing program with a public health specialization, you can develop the skills you’ll need to assume a leadership role in assessing communities and populations, identifying high-risk groups, and developing culturally sensitive, acceptable, and realistic population-based nursing interventions. It’s a great path to take if you want to become a public health nurse leader. And that path is not as tricky as you might think.

Thanks to online education, you can earn your MSN degree from home or from anywhere else you have internet access. Plus, in an online MSN program, you’ll enjoy a flexible schedule that allows you to choose when in the day you attend class, making it possible to earn your MSN degree while continuing to work full time and on your usual shift schedule.

Public health is a vital part of our healthcare system. When you earn a master’s in nursing online, you can become an important part of it.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an Master of Science in Nursing program with a Public Health Nursing specialization online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

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Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,