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Public Health Nursing Practice Manual

Population-Based Public Health Nursing Practice Population-based public health nursing:

  • Has a focus based on entire populations possessing similar health concerns or


  • Is based on an assessment of community needs.

  • Addresses the broad determinants of health.

  • Considers multiple levels of practice.

  • Considers multiple levels of prevention with preference for primary prevention.

Levels of Practice

The ultimate goal of all levels of population-based practice is to improve population health. Public health interventions may be directed at entire populations within a community, the systems that affect the health of those populations, and/or the individuals and families within those populations known to be at risk. Interventions at each of these levels of practice contribute to the overall goal of improving population health.

Population-based individual-focused or family-focused practice changes knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, practices, and behaviors of individuals. This practice level is directed at individuals, alone or as part of a family, class, or group. Individuals receive services because they are identified as belonging to a population-at-risk.

Population-based community-focused practice changes community norms, community attitudes, community awareness, community practices, and community behaviors. They are directed toward entire populations within the community or occasionally toward target groups within those populations. Community-focused practice is measured in terms of what proportion of the population actually changes.

Population-based systems-focused practice changes organizations, policies, laws, and power structures. The focus is not directly on individuals and communities but on the systems that impact health. Changing systems is often a more effective and long-lasting way to impact population health than requiring change from every single individual in a community.

Public health professionals determine the most appropriate level(s) of practice based on community need and the availability of effective strategies and resources. No one level of practice is more important than another; in fact, most public health problems are addressed at all three levels, often simultaneously.

Levels of Prevention

“Prevention is anticipatory action taken to prevent the occurrence of an event or to minimize its effect after it has occurred.” 1Not every event is preventable, but every event does have a preventable component.

© 2007 LAC DPH - Public Health Nursing

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