Nursing at the heart of public health

The promotion of good health and prevention of disease has been a feature of public health care since the 1850s. And the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is proud of the contribution that our members continue to make, whatever role you play.

What is public health?

Public health supports individuals, organisations, and society to tackle preventable disease, mortality and disability using:

  • prevention: reducing the incidence of ill health supporting healthier lifestyle
  • protection: surveillance and monitoring of infectious disease, emergency response and immunisation
  • promotion: health education and commissioning services to meet specific health needs.

You have a vital part to play

It is an exciting time for nurses working in public health, as all four countries of the UK seek to address the underlying causes of ill health such as unhealthy lifestyles and social inequalities.

The RCN is an advocate for the nursing contribution to minimise the impact of illness and promote good health. It is essential that we maximise the role that all nurses have in supporting health and wellbeing. See the RCN report The Value and Contribution of Nursing to Public Health in the UK.

We know that it is challenging and your role in public health may not always be acknowledged, however you are ideally placed to make a difference: “Nursing’s presence at almost every stage and setting of care means that nurses are engaged across a whole spectrum of public health interventions” (RCN Policy and International Department 2012, p.7).

Public Health concepts are important in almost all areas of health care The RCN Public health clinical pages have a range of useful information on many areas of work nursing staff are involved with.

Nursing staff are integral in work to protect individuals from harm the RCN have information on Safeguarding. The RCN are also actively engaged in work to raise awareness of Female genital mutilation this includes working to try and prevent it and supporting those affected.

Infection and prevention control is an essential part of public health protection. Concerns about Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a huge public health issue, this report shows how nursing teams can help decrease antibiotic use.

Celebrating your achievements

Many of our members have embraced these challenges and made great achievements in the field of public health. We want to showcase more of your success stories to inspire others to do the same. If you have an initiative to share, please download this form and return it to in order for us to add it to our website.