Nurses across the country believe they know how to slow rates of chronic disease and thus reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs.
Their solution: Involve more nurses in PREVENTION. Their proposal is to designate an existing position, the Chief Nurse Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service as the National Nurse for Public Health.
By doing so, Congress will provide more impetus to promote the Medical Reserve Corps, strengthen existing public health infrastructure, and mobilize available resources of willing nurses and other healthcare workers within each community to deliver and reinforce messages of disease prevention.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), who is also a nurse, and Congressman Pete King (R-NY) agree, introducing H.R. 379 The National ” Nurse Act of 2015 on January 14, 2015. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito introduced companion bill, S. 1205, on National Nurses Day.
As a national advocate for nursing actions to champion public health in all communities, the National Nurse for Public Health would collaborate with the Office of the Surgeon General to identify and address national health priorities. Nurses, 3.1 million strong, represent the largest sector of the healthcare workforce and each one of them is poised to lead this national movement towards improved public health. The National Nurse for Public Health would provide a unifying voice and leadership to accomplish this.
The National Nurse Act provides an opportunity to:
1) Bring forth the significant and trusted voice of nurses to the ongoing conversation about health and health care in America
2) Deliver a unified, prominent message about the importance of health promotion and disease prevention.
3) Set a new standard for a more accurate and realistic recognition of nursing’s importance to health and health care in the United States.
4) Engage and inspire increased participation of nurses and other health professionals in prevention, including replicating successful health promotion activities in their own local communities.
5) Provide a national role model inspiring young Americans to enter a career in nursing at a time when the need for nurses in the U.S. is expected to grow greatly over the coming decades.
6) The beauty of this legislation is that it is simple, pragmatic, and can be implemented as it is written without the request of additional allocations.
There are over 100 endorsing organizations including the American Nurses Association, the National Federation of Nurses, and the American Federation of Healthcare Professionals. Five state legislatures (MA, OR, NJ, NY and VT) have overwhelmingly passed resolutions urging Congress to enact this bill. A complete list can be found at http://nationalnurse.org/endorsements.shtml.
Teri Mills MS, RN, CNE, President of the National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO) states, “We are delighted to have strong bipartisan support for this legislation, and because it does not require any appropriation of funds, we hope Congress can agree to pass this soon. As Congress and the President continue to grapple with our country’s budget crisis, it would be wise to consider the financial impact that the seven most common chronic diseases have on our economy.”
Diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, and underlying causes such as obesity and tobacco use, affect more than 130 million Americans and contribute greatly to our out-of-control healthcare costs. According to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, these conditions cost more than $1 trillion a year, and if there is no change, could balloon to nearly $6 trillion by 2050. Preventable and highly manageable chronic diseases account for 75 cents of every dollar we spend on healthcare in the U.S, every day, every year. Even more daunting, chronic disease costs consume more than 90 cents of every dollar spent on Medicare and Medicaid. In contrast, we spend less than 5 cents on prevention.
NNNO Board Member Elizabeth McPhee RN states, “This legislation brings nurses, the most trusted profession, to the forefront in fulfilling a role they are accustomed to-keeping Americans well. The timing has never been better to have a publicly recognized prominent nurse leader to represent nursing on the national level as an advocate for health promotion and disease prevention.”
The National Nursing Network Organization (NNNO), an all-volunteer citizen based organization, led has put together several template letters that can be easily edited to send off to your U.S. Representative and Senators. Below is an example, but please do email the NNNO Board (email@example.com) for tips and suggestions, as well as an email address that is best to send your letter to. They are always willing to help!
I want to begin by thanking Representative/Senator ______ for his/her leadership and service on behalf of his constituents here in (Your City). I am the (one sentence about yourself). I am writing today to request co sponsorship for HR 379 (S 1205), The National Nurse Act of 2015, legislation that is very important to nurses in (Your State) and the health of our state. I have been involved for decades in the struggle to improve health and reducing costs to our healthcare system by promoting preventive care. I believe the National Nurse Act of 2015 would be an important step forward in that effort.
We know that nurses are the most trusted and respected healthcare providers in America. By designating the existing position of the Chief Nurse Officer as the National Nurse for Public Health, we would be taking advantage of that status to help focus attention and educate the public on how to improve their health status.
We would also be elevating the profession of nursing at a moment when the role of nurses in the healthcare system is becoming increasingly important.
As a national advocate for nursing actions to champion public health in our communities, a key role of the National Nurse for Public Health would be to encourage nurses and all health professionals to work within successful health promotion programs, increasing public safety and emergency preparedness.
I hope that Representative (or Senator) ______ agrees to the importance of
this legislation and will soon become a co-sponsor.
Thank you for your assistance and I look forward to your response.