Public health issues affecting communities and populations require rapid action and continuous efforts of policymakers and medical professionals, including nurses. Prevention-oriented and community-focused practice can facilitate the decision-making for public health providers, improve healthcare funding, and promote prophylaxis (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2020). Brilliant (2006) noted that the key measures that helped defeat smallpox, polio, and avoidable blindness worldwide were early detection and early response. The top health issue in my community (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is not an infectious disease outbreak, but the problem of overweight/obesity reaching epidemic proportions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2021), about 67.9% of adults and 41% of children and teenagers in Philadelphia are obese or overweight. Attia (2013) claimed that despite conventional wisdom, obesity is not necessarily caused by overeating and inadequate exercise but is associated with insulin resistance and glucose consumption. Thus, the recommendations and treatment plans for patients should not be based on the judgment of these individuals and populations but open-minded approach and scientific evidence to the prevention of insulin resistance and Type-2 diabetes. Additionally, the nursing competencies of compassion and empathy are vital to encourage community members to participate in obesity prevention initiatives and advocate for relevant policy changes.
The system-level interventions are methods and strategies that nurses can introduce to influence the organizational structure’s processes and optimize resource allocation. The place-based approach offered by Glasper (2013) promotes collaboration between the stakeholders to tackle public health issues in a specific geographic area or community. Considering the spread of obesity and overweight in youth, the strategy should focus on prevention programs in kindergartens and schools via the nursing advocacy for healthy nutrition plans.
The collaborative efforts of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) resulted in the development of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (HHS, 2020). The document can be used by nurses to educate community members on scientifically-approved food and drink choices. Moreover, the source might be utilized as the foundation of local- and federal-level programs/policies targeting the prevention and treatment of obesity in U.S. communities.
Poor nutrition is also associated with health inequities and explains why ethnic minorities and low-income families are at considerable risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and related health complications (Caspard et al., 2017). The possible solution is the strategy of eliminating disparities via advocacy and policy changes toward accessible nutrition and healthcare.
The role of the nurse in advancing population care involves the ongoing advocacy for patients and collaboration with interdisciplinary agencies to effectively respond to public health issues and eliminate healthcare inequality. The Declaration of Alma-Ata indicates that public health can be achieved when the efforts of the health sector are supported by the action of other economic, social, and legislative agencies (World Health Organization, 1978). The Intervention Wheel is a set of population-based instruments focusing on the community-, organization-. and individual-level public health interventions (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2020).
Nurses may serve as the link between local authorities or government and vulnerable community members to promote necessary changes, support health equality, and develop prevention strategies. It is also important to work with economic agencies and charity organizations to seek funding and donations for health causes. Finally, the assistance of social and marketing agencies might help promote community education and raise awareness of a particular health concern, such as obesity/overweight, which is common nationwide.
Attia, P. (2013). Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem? [Video file]. TED. Web.
Brilliant, L. (2006). My wish: Help me stop pandemics [Video]. TED. Web.
Caspard, H., Jabbour, S., Hammar, N., Fenici, P., Sheehan, J. J., & Kosiborod, M. (2017). Recent trends in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and the association with abdominal obesity lead to growing health disparities in the USA: An analysis of the NHANES surveys from 1999 to 2014. Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, 20(3), 667–671. Web.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Community profile: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. CDC. Web.
Glasper, A. (2013). The nursing and midwifery contribution to public health. British Journal of Nursing, 22(15), 900–901. Web.
Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2020). Public health nursing: Population-centered health care in the community (10th ed.). Elsevier.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020). Food and nutrition. Health. Web.
World Health Organization. (1978). Declaration of Alma-Ata. WHO. Web.