Public Health Nursing in Canada

General Overview:

Public Health Departments lead, manage and deliver public health programs and services for both individuals and communities. The Public Health Agency of Canada is the main federal agency responsible for public health in our country. The main goals of the Public Health Agency of Canada is to promote overall health, prevent and control chronic diseases and injuries, prevent and control infectious diseases and they also prepare for and respond to public health emergencies. They work with all levels of Canadian governments to promote public health initiatives. The agency was established in September 2004 as a response to the SARS outbreak. Where healthcare focuses on the treatment of sick individuals, Public Health departments attempt to keep people from getting sick or becoming sicker, taking a proactive approach toward the health of our citizens. (The Public Health Agency of Canada, 2008)
(Juanita Baker)


History of Public Health Services:

Public health interventions date back to the beginning of human civilization. In ancient Rome, sewage systems and water supply infrastructures were built due to the realization polluted water sources and improper disposal of wastes was contributing to the spread of disease. Early religions made attempts to regulate the behaviour of citizens related to health such as dictating the types of foods to be consumed and rules surrounding indulgent behaviours such as sexual practices and alcohol consumption. Once governments were established official public health policies and programs were developed to assist in understanding the causes of disease. (Wikipedia, 2009)

The first public health interventions in Canada were developed in the 19th century as described by Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. David Butler-Jones in his 2008 Report on the State of Public Health in Canada. During that time, Canada was suffering from variety of disease outbreaks, such as cholera, diphtheria and typhus due to lack of proper sanitation, polluted water sources and lack of waste disposal systems. In that same era a large flow of immigrants from Europe brought diseases that were very contagious to Canada’s native population. The government attempted to stop the spread of these diseases by quarantining new immigrants. This was followed by the introduction of vaccines, the pasteurization of milk and other food safety initiatives and the development of sewage and water treatment programs. (Butler-Jones, 2008) (Valentina)

Role of the Public Health Nurse:

Public Health Nurses act as generalists with broad based knowledge in health and health determinants and expert knowledge in areas such as infectious disease, school health and maternal-child health. One of their major responsibilities is to implement legislated services to control health hazards and diseases as found in The Public Health Act and The Food and Drug Act. (City of Winnepeg, 1998)
The Community Health Nurses Association of Canada has come up with a set of specific competencies for Public Health Nursing. These competencies fall under the categories of; Public Health and Nursing Sciences, Assessment and Analysis, Policy and Program Planning, Implementation and Evaluation, Partnerships, Collaboration and Advocacy, Diversity and Inclusiveness, Communication, Leadership and Professional Responsibility and Accountability. The entire document outlining each category and the related professional competencies can be found on the Community Health Nurses Association of Canada’s website located at: (Community Health Nurses Association of Canada, 2009) (Anicetus Okonkwo)

Examples of Services provided by Public Health Departments

  • Beauty & Body Art Safety
  • Car Seat Safety / Clinics
  • Day Cares
  • Drugs & Alcohol
  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Environmental Health Hazards
  • Falls Prevention
  • Health Statistics
  • Immunization
  • Infection Prevention & Control
  • Nursing Homes
  • Occupational Health
  • Oral Health
  • Outdoor Air Quality
  • Pandemic Influenza
  • Pregnancy, Parenting & Family Health
  • Sexual Health Resources / Clinics
  • Stop Smoking Programs / Tobacco Education
(Region of Durham, 2009)
(Juanita Baker)

Educational Requirements to work in Public Health:

To work in a public health you must be a Registered Nurse and it is also recommended to have a Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing. As a Public Health Nurse you will need to pose skills in many vast areas. Upgrading is an essential part of your job to stay abreast of current needs of the community and job requirements. You will encounter many different skill sets while working in the community, utilizing your resources daily to improve your quality of care. Public Health Nursing is involved in every aspect of a client’s needs from beginning care to follow thru to all disciplines to transferring care to a hospital setting. You may work in a group setting of Public Health professionals collaboratively or practice on your own. You work with entire populations, vulnerable individuals, and families with the focus of prevention of illness, injury, disability and promotion of health. (American Public Health Association, 2009)

· Baccalaureate Degree in Nursing

· a current certificate of competence as a Registered Nurse with the College of Nurses of Ontario

· CPR for Healthcare Providers
Optional Certifications:

· Perinatal/Obstretics RN Graduate Certificate

· Nephrology Nursing RN Certificate

· Mental Health Nursing Certificate

· Emergency Nursing RN Certificate
(Melissa Brundage)

Federal & Provincial Government links:

· Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
· Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Public Health Division
· Ministry of Children and Youth Services - Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program
· PublicHealthOntario Information Portal thumbnailCAG3IA94.JPG
· Local Health Integrating Networks
· Public Health Agency of Canada
· Canadian Institute for Health Information
· Canadian Institute for Health Research
· Health Council of Canada
(Melissa Brundage)


Butler-Jones, D. D. (2008). Report on the State of Public Health in Canada. Government of Canada.

American Public Health Association. (2009). Continuing Professional Education, Retrieved July 30, 2009, from
City of Winnepeg. (1998). The Role of the Public Health Nurse within the Regional Health Authority. Winnepeg: Manitoba Health.
Community Health Nurses Association of Canada. (2009). Public Health Nursing Competencies. Retrieved July 30, 2009, from
Region of Durham. (2009). Health, Retrieved July 30, 2009, from

sej805. (2008, Jan 8). Public health nurse [Video file]. Retrieved from
The Public Health Agency of Canada. (2008). About The Agency, Retrieved July 30, 2009, from
Wikipedia. (2009). Public Health. Retrieved July 30, 2009, from

(Juanita Baker)