Few would disagree that preventing a disease or injury is a better, healthier and more economic then later intervention and treatment.
However, influencing people’s behaviour to improve their wellbeing and live in health for longer is a complex challenge. People don’t always recognise the impact of their health behaviours and, if they do, they may feel that ‘there is always tomorrow’ to make a change. As we know, the environment in which we live can make a difference to us making change - so we need to try to make the right thing to do easier and to support people individually. In terms of helping people individually, one key influence can be being told something by someone we trust and respect and nurses, as one of the most trusted and respected professions in this country, can and do make a real impact.
However, the public health challenges modern society is facing requires a more significant and strategic effort. So, taking as given that prevention is the better option, reinforced by the 5YFV call ‘for a radical upgrade in prevention,’ what needs to happen?
To begin with we need to understand what would help busy health professional to adopt a model of practice which embeds prevention and health promotion and helps the individuals we care for, and society, become healthier and happier? And, of course, with our individual health behaviours there will be a number of factors that will be influencing us in our work. There are, however, some common themes: easy access to evidence and information, more coordinated professional advice with public campaigns, more confidence in starting difficult conversations.
As nurses we are very conscious that we need to change the nature of some clinical conversations and we need to go even further than ‘nothing about me, without me’ to a fully engaged dialogue about health, resilience and self-management and of course this will take time for professionals and the public.
‘All Our Health’ and the prevention and health promotion commitments in Leading Change, Adding Value are calls to action which aim to maximise our contribution to improved prevention and provide tools and resources to support practice.
Motivational interviewing skills, augmented knowledge and awareness, and the strengthened confidence that comes from these, can all help nurses and midwives to effectively be a conduit for this empowerment. Individual nurses are developing good practice around public health challenges such as AMR, obesity or smoking etc.
The NMC Code of Conduct is explicit in terms of our responsibility (para 3.1 reads: pay special attention to promoting wellbeing, preventing ill health and meeting the changing health and care needs of people during all life stages); the revalidation process reinforces this and provides an excellent opportunity to utilise the learning and new approaches to preventative care through the CPD and written reflective account elements we have to submit.
So use your CPD to develop your skills and knowledge in prevention and health promotion, exploit the resources that All Our Health has to offer, take individual, professional responsibility to help empower others to take personal responsibility towards a healthier life and join us in bringing about a social movement for health.