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Hawaii: Outlook and Challenges for Public Health Nurses

Higher Education Articles September 27, 2013

Public health nursing fills a crucial role in creating a high quality of life in a given community. It has a primary focus of protecting and promoting the health of a society through a combination of nursing, health sciences and social sciences. Public health nursing focuses on a population with the goals of preventing disease while promoting health for the entire society. Ideally, public health nursing helps to foster the conditions that support ongoing thriving health for all.

A Holistic Approach to Health

“Health” refers to an optimal state of well-being that embodies physical, mental, environmental and social components. The state of Hawaii believes it is a right of all people and facilitates this ideal with programs like public health nursing. The public health system in Hawaii has a vision of equity in health advantages for all of the people in the community. The mission of the public health nursing system in Hawaii is to enrich and enhance the safety and health of all of its residents. It does so through the promotion of effective and sustainable community practices.

Other responsibilities of Hawaii’s public health program include:

• Monitoring health risk factors
• Encouraging healthy lifestyles
• Assuring safe, ergonomic, healthy workplaces
• Local support for families and communities
• Pollution prevention
• Petitioning and working with state and federal authorities as needed
• Preservation of a clean and healthy natural environment through recycling and enhancing water and air quality
• Ensuring that the basic health needs of all community members are met accessibly and affordably

Hawaii Public Heath Challenges and Obstacles

Hawaii News Now lists heart failure, bacterial pneumonia and mental health as the three top concerns facing Hawaii’s public health system at this time. Some have even referred to the state of mental health services in the state as being “in crisis,” citing a 20% increase in hospitalizations and cuts to community programs for mental health treatment as the main cause.

These issues mark the importance of employing what those in Hawaiian public health nursing call the “mauka makai” model – a way of shifting away from acute and crisis care to ongoing community-based efforts. This holistic approach has a proven track record of addressing treatable issues effectively while they are manageable and preventing them from escalating.

It Takes a Village

This shift marks a major transition in healthcare, focusing on the social environment in schools, churches and the workplace to help improve the overall health and well-being of the entire community. Putting some of the onus on these community partners will assist in improving outcomes and reducing costs for public health in Hawaii going forward.

The average salary of public health nurses was $65,470 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Exact salaries for nursing jobs can vary depending upon the employer, exact location, applicant experience and job-specific requirements. The job outlook for nurses in general is a growth rate of 19% for 2012 through 2022, which is higher than the national average.

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