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Canada, community organization, history, leadership, public health, public health nursing



  1. Duncan, Susan M. RN, MSN
  2. Leipart, Beverly D. RN, MSN
  3. Mill, Judy E. RN, MN


Public health nurses provided leadership for the advancement of public health in Canada in the early decades of this century, although leadership by nurses is not celebrated in public health history. The historical period (1918-1939) selected for this inquiry is one in which public health nurses created a legacy of achievements in public health nursing education, practice, and the organization of community health services within the most challenging of social, economic, and political contexts. The practice of public health nursing in Canada during the interwar years included strategies that were then and still are integral to the discipline-those of forming connections with the community, providing leadership in the public health movement, and facilitating community organization. It is vital to understand the significance of these origins of public health nursing as forces in the present context of practice threaten to alter fundamentally the nature of public health nursing's connection with the community. The purpose of this article is to highlight aspects of this historical legacy so that its influence can be more fully understood and strengthened in current health system transitions.