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A nurse listens to a client’s chest via stethescope while both client and nurse look at a  computer screen. Another health care professional is visible on the computer screen.
Figure 3.1 A school nurse in a rural setting examines a client in collaboration with a nurse practitioner via telehealth. Community health nurses serve many roles and can bridge the gap between distant specialists and clinicians by providing essential care directly to people in their homes and communities. (credit: modification of work by Preston Keres/USDA/Flickr, Public Domain)

Public/community health nurses act as change agents in their communities, working to support health outcomes for clients and the broader population. They play a pivotal role in advancing the health of clients, communities, and families and in achieving population health objectives. The actions of public/community health nurses align with the principles and functions of public health: assessment, assurance, and policy development. This chapter will explore historical perspectives on public/community health nursing, the foundation and functions of professional practice, and how public/community health nurses lead and deliver care across levels of prevention to show how the connection between nursing practice and public health supports population health.

As Foundations of Public/Community Health notes, the term “public/community health” is fairly common as the goals and functions of these closely related disciplines are interconnected. In nursing, community health has long been viewed as indistinguishable from public health (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2022, p.3.)

This chapter will continue to refer to Alexandra Lee and her family, whom the text has been following since What Is Population Health? to explore how population, public, and community health impact their well-being. Remember that the Lee family members include parents Alexandra, a daycare teacher who is pregnant, and Christopher, who has hypertension and is currently without a job or health plan coverage, and their children Sunshine, a full-time school student with a life-threatening allergy, and Woody, a generally healthy toddler.

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