Our personal health is influenced by our surrounding environment and the ways we engage with it.
A long-term personal vision of health and wellbeing is important to maintaining health over time. Positive decision making at all stages of our lives can reap sustained benefits over a lifetime.
Attitudes and perspectives on health are often shaped by circumstances before birth and from a young age by a variety of environmental and personal influences, including family, friends, teachers and health care providers.
As health care providers, nurses can both promote and be a point of reference for personal wellbeing, the wellness of patients and the overall health of the communities in which they work.
Beyond simply instilling a long-term health vision, nursing interventions have been shown to play a critical role in empowering others to seek healthy lifestyles. These interventions include health education, health assessments, ongoing monitoring and support as well as primary health care and treatment.
Nurses can have positive influences on patient behavior through patient education, as well as by modeling healthy lifestyles. For example, nurse-led smoking cessation interventions have shown to increase the chance of successfully quitting smoking by up to 50%.
Within our environments there are physical, chemical and biological hazards that exist and can affect our health in a number of ways. For instance, contaminated drinking water is a source of disease and waterborne diseases pose a serious threat to the health of children and adults alike. The lack of pedestrian zones, green areas and secure places for exercise can impede people from engaging in physical activity due to inhospitable and unsafe spaces. Poor air quality within one’s home due to wood or charcoal burning stoves that are unventilated and outside due to air pollution contribute to the global burden of respiratory disease.
Nurses can act as powerful advocates for policy and decision makers to implement the necessary changes to these harmful environmental factors that directly and indirectly affect people’s health.
Part of assuring a healthy environment is to help to decrease the spread of infectious diseases through vaccination. This can happen in two ways, through direct immunization, as well as through indirect effects otherwise known as community or ‘herd’ immunity. Herd or community immunity occurs when there an adequate number of people within a group have been immunized against a disease (e.g. measles), lessening the chance of spreading the disease to the rest of the group. Nurses and other healthcare professionals can create a safer environment by providing individuals with information about the benefits and risk of immunizations and encourage individuals to remain current with their vaccinations.