This year, National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) is December 2-8. NIVW provides an opportunity for nurses to promote flu vaccination before flu season swings into full gear. The flu can be dangerous and result in serious health problems (complications), such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations. Flu can sometimes even lead to death. All people are at risk for serious flu-related complications and certain groups, such as young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma or lung disease, and people 65 years and older, are at higher risk.
Getting a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu and its serious complications. Annual vaccination is important because influenza is unpredictable, flu viruses are constantly changing, and immunity from vaccination declines over time. Flu vaccination can also prevent serious medical events associated with some chronic conditions. A meta-analysis study published in JAMA shows that flu vaccination has been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events (i.e., unstable angina, heart failure, or stroke among people with heart disease).
In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but influenza activity often peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May. The CDC recommends everyone at 6 months of age and older gets a flu vaccine by the end of October, before flu activity begins every year. However, getting vaccinated later can still be beneficial.
Here are some essential preventative actions that we can do, in addition to getting a flu vaccine, to beat the flu and protect ourselves, our families, and our patients.
Wash your hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often and thoroughly. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
Boost your immune by getting adequate sleep, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and taking time to exercise.
Last but not least, stay home when you are sick. If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
Public health is an important aspect in the nursing profession because it involves addressing medical illnesses on a global scale. Due to the aging population and the advancement of medical technologies, public health nurses are vital in developing and providing skilled nursing care aimed at promoting preventative measures to increase the global health of the population. It is this understanding that fuels public health nurses to continue their efforts to not only educate society about certain illnesses, but also promote healthy lifestyles across the patient gamut.
What is Public Health?
According to the Public Health Institute, public health is defined as “the science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community, as by preventative medicine, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards.” The focus of increasing public health awareness is significant especially in today’s society because of the growing paradigm shift towards preventative care versus diagnostic care. In addition to this, public health awareness also requires a collaborative and multidisciplinary effort consisting of physicians, epidemiologists, statisticians, and dietary professionals. This interprofessional collaboration is vital because it involves gathering a sizeable amount of clinical data to effectively screen and prevent a disease from adversely affecting the general public.
The Impact of Nursing in Public Health
The impact of nurses in supporting public health efforts is invaluable because of their strong emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. Nurses not only possess the proficiencies but also competencies to tackle the burden of health determinants and the various environmental and behavioral factors associated with it. Subsequently, nurses must have the skillset to proactively confront these challenges within an individual and societal context. In order to evaluate these activities, nurses must be diligent in both planning and implementing to ensure public health concerns are addressed directly. Finally, nurses who are actively involved in lobbying for societal and structural reform are then able to promote effectual health care strategies aimed at reducing negative health outcomes associated with poor health decisions and a lack of knowledge.
Why is Public Health Important?
Due to the health care industry shifting towards more preventive care strategies, nurses continue to play a major role in leveraging public health awareness. By identifying and monitoring health concerns that may affect entire communities, public health nurses are uniquely qualified to not only advocate, but also promote societal change to safeguard the health and well-being of all individuals around the world. Therefore, a nurse’s role in health promotion includes various responsibilities related to advocating, enabling, and mediating activities to ensure salubrious decisions equate to healthier outcomes.
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