1. Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN


Looking back often brings fresh insights.


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I often read AJN's archives to get a sense what our foremothers were facing a century ago. I marvel at the thinking of the day regarding the causes of illness and the descriptions of nursing life, concerns, and procedures used in those times. It's fascinating to see how far science and nursing have come, but also how some things are still much the same. Indeed, many health initiatives today have roots in the past.

Figure. Maureen Shaw... - Click to enlarge in new window Maureen Shawn Kennedy

For example, in the February 1918 issue, a physician wrote that, to avoid colds, one must seek and correct the underlying causes, which include, "in order of their frequency: 1, improper clothing (all ages); 2, adenoids, (children); 3, influenza, (all ages); 4, worry, (adults); 5, overeating and excessive drinking, (adults)." And a year later, in the February 1919 issue, there was a short piece encouraging the adoption of an eight-hour workday, noting that "the printers have added 10 years to their life since they abandoned the 10-, 11-, 12-hour day." One hundred years later, the debate surrounding the 12-hour shift versus the 8-hour shift continues.


In the early issues, there was no "editorial" per se, but rather a compilation of various items of interest, including letters, meeting minutes, and sometimes, opinions of the editor. It was called "Editor's Miscellany." Since then, the editorial column has evolved and become more focused, highlighting important issues of the day or calling attention to content in the journal, or both, as I do here.


This month's cover photo shows a nursing student performing a blood pressure screening as part of an initiative begun by black and Hispanic pastors' wives to provide free health screenings to underserved communities. (For more, see On the Cover.) This initiative has provided over 300,000 health screenings to people across the country for over 10 years. We chose the photo for several reasons. First, February is American Heart Month. The first Friday of the month is National Wear Red Day, part of a campaign started in 2002 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute to bring attention to heart disease in women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's July 2018 National Vital Statistics Reports, in 2016 heart disease was the leading cause of death in this country for both men and women. Stroke was the third leading cause of death for women and the fifth for men. In blacks, heart disease was ranked as number one and stroke was number three. Controlling the risk factors for these diseases-hypertension, atherosclerosis, a sedentary lifestyle-is essential if we are to reduce mortality.


Second, the original research article this month examines the effects of midlife hypertension and hypercholesterolemia on cognitive function in black women later in life. The authors reviewed data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Women's Health Study, and while their results did not reach statistical significance, perhaps owing to sample size, they note there were trends suggesting an association between vascular risk factors and poor cognition in this population. For this reason, they encourage that we continue to "prioritize prevention and treatment strategies related to vascular risk factors for blacks throughout adulthood."


February is also Black History Month, and as noted earlier, I often look in the archives for articles that relate to current topics. "Health on Wheels in Mississippi," an article in our May 1941 issue written by staff nurse Bessie Cobb, describes Cobb's experience with what was likely the first mobile health clinic in the country. The clinic was started in 1933 as a project of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a black women's sorority at Howard University. Automobiles with volunteer nurses, physicians, and teachers traveled throughout rural Mississippi, where they conducted immunizations (mostly against diphtheria and smallpox) and health screenings "directed towards defective teeth, tonsils and adenoids in children, syphilis in the adult." The clinic referred cases for follow-up to the U.S. Public Health Service. (You can read the article for free during February at


Today Alpha Kappa Alpha, which has over 300,000 members in 1,018 chapters in nine countries, continues to focus on "awareness of critical health issues impacting African-American women." It still operates a mobile health clinic. Some things are just worth keeping up.