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Carmen Morales-Board speaking at a microphone.
Figure 7.1 Family Nurse Practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator Carmen Morales-Board speaks about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. (credit: modification of work “Carmen Morales: Thank You Affordable Care Act” by Nancy Pelosi/Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

As a pediatric nurse, Maria Sanchez spends a lot of her time making babies cry, but she knows she is doing so for a good cause. As a public health nurse, she provides routine vaccinations to children from birth through their teens, ensuring they are protected from preventable diseases like measles and polio. Sanchez has first-hand experience working within the context of public health policy—the laws, regulations, programs, behaviors, and decisions implemented within a society to promote public health.

Public health policy takes many forms, ranging from legislative policies to community outreach interventions, and it affects many fields, including health care, insurance, education, agriculture, and business, among others. Public health policy development and intervention occur at the local, state, national, and global levels:

  • On a local level, a city council may develop policies to limit smoking on city properties.
  • On a state level, a state legislature may pass emergency preparedness laws or regulations for its citizens.
  • On a national level, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide policies to govern the administration of vaccinations in the United States; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) develops policies related to the development and sale of food and drug items.
  • On a global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) provides leadership on public health matters and establishes policies such as those related to controlling pandemics like COVID-19.

The most important focus of any public health policy is ensuring positive health outcomes for communities. Public health policy is essential to physical health outcomes and mental, social, and economic well-being.

This chapter provides an in-depth analysis of public health policies and regulations and their influence on the role of the community health/population health nurse and health outcomes for communities.

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