1. Worth, Tammy


Nurses are overlooked in a federal public health initiative.


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A committee with the responsibility for setting U.S. national health objectives for the next 10 years has no representation from nursing-the largest group of health care professionals in the country. The all-public, 13-person Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (known as HHS), has the task of creating objectives for Healthy People 2020, the national preventive health care initiative that will continue the work of its predecessor, Healthy People 2010. (Go to to see a list of committee members.)


"The selection committee considered candidates with broad public health knowledge and experience," wrote Penelope Royall, MSW, PT, deputy assistant secretary for health in HHS's Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, in an e-mail to AJN. "We also sought out candidates who had familiarity with the purpose of Healthy People or other similar measures of health. Other factors that played a role were geographic distribution, race, and gender."


The current group is composed of physicians, educators, and representatives from the public health sector and private corporations-but not nurses. "These are great people to include," said Susan Reinhard, PhD, RN, senior vice president and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute. "But they tend not to have direct experience with consumers and their education. Omitting the nursing community leaves out a critical component in the health care equation." Reinhard, who is also chief strategist for the Center to Champion Nursing in America, believes that public agencies often forget that nursing, at its core, includes disease prevention and health promotion. "It's demoralizing and a waste of human talent," she said.


Cheryl Easley, PhD, RN, president-elect of the American Public Health Association and dean of the College of Health and Social Welfare at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, agreed that nurses would provide a holistic perspective to policymaking bodies such as the advisory committee for Healthy People 2020. "We need to be more vigilant about what's going on and take a look at the composition of these committees," said Easley. "We all need to take notice of how much nurses are involved and raise our voices if we are excluded."


In a press release, Rebecca M. Patton, MSN, RN, CNOR, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), said that omitting nurses from the Healthy People 2020 advisory committee "represents a failure to recognize both the crucial role that nurses play as well as the need to integrate nurses into any health promotion and disease [-prevention] objectives and plans, and sends the wrong message." The ANA has called for its members to urge HHS to include a nurse on the committee by posting a comment on the Healthy People 2020 Web site (


Royall said that HHS has included nurses on one of the Healthy People 2020 working groups, the User Questions and User Needs subcommittee. Royall also invited nurses to take part in Healthy People 2020 by attending regional meetings and offering comments on the group's Web site.


Tammy Worth