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Epidemiology in Public Nursing Practice

Differentiating between Incidence and Prevalence

In public health, epidemiology, and other areas of health science, the distinction between incidence and prevalence is a topic of extensive inquiry. Some people may use these names interchangeably, but their uses are distinct. The term “incidence” is used to describe the rate at which new cases of a disease or health condition emerge in a population over time, while the term “prevalence” describes the percentage of people in a population who have a certain disease or attribute at a given moment or over a specific period (Godefrooij et al., 2017).

In public health and epidemiology, the incidence and prevalence of a disease or other health condition are crucially essential because they shed light on the nature and scope of the problem. The public health nurse will likely use incidence and prevalence when examining statistics regarding the health district she resides in. Incidence can be used to measure a particular condition’s “attack rate” and reveal local disease patterns or health conditions patterns (Godefrooij et al., 2017). By analyzing the incidence rate, the nurse can make more informed decisions regarding public health initiatives and programs in the given district. Using these ideas, a public health nurse, says a psychiatric nurse, may analyze data about the health district where she works, such as the number of individuals recently diagnosed with a mental illness and the number of people currently living with one. Alternatively, the nurse may use prevalence statistics to understand the population’s prevalence of a certain mental disease in the health district.

For instance, a public health nurse could utilize incidence data to find out how many patients in the health district were newly diagnosed or treated for treatment of depression over three months. On the other hand, prevalence statistics might be used to estimate the number of people experiencing depression at any particular period within the same health district (Moreno-Agostino et al., 2021). The nurse could further investigate the state of mental health in the health district by comparing the prevalence data with the number of diagnoses or persons receiving treatment during the same period.

The Healthy People Objectives Program

The Healthy People program revises its science-based, 10-year national goals to better the health of the American population every decade. The vision, mission, guiding principles, plan of action, and overarching goals of Healthy People 2030 are all established and additional goals are identified (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020). There are five main objectives of Healthy People 2030. The following objectives are included in this list: achieving healthy, thriving lives and well-being, free of preventable disease, disability, injury, and early death; eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity, and achieving health literacy to improve the health and well-being of all; building social, physical, and economic environments that encourage achieving the maximum potential for health and well-being for all; and fostering healthy development, healthy habits, and well-being across all lifestyles.

The primary motivation behind Healthy People Goals was to define measurable, attainable, and time-bound objectives for the nation’s health promotion and disease prevention programs. This helps identify public health issues that need more attention and focus and variables and conditions that contribute to health disparities among different populations (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2020). These goals can be used to evaluate how far we have progressed in our pursuit of health equality, healthcare access, and better health outcomes.

As a psychiatric nurse, I had the opportunity to put the Healthy People objectives into practice. To begin, I use the objectives to raise awareness among my patients regarding the significant responsibilities that stakeholders like governments, schools, and corporations may play in accomplishing broader public health goals. Second, I use the objectives to describe key priority areas of population health in the care plans I create for my patients. This helps them understand the bigger context within which they receive the individualized treatment and support they need. In conclusion, while designing ways to encourage healthy habits among patients and their families, I consult the objectives to guide my thinking.

One of the main reasons I have not had much opportunity to learn about or work toward the Healthy People goals at my current job is that there are not enough resources dedicated to them. Unfortunately, I have not been able to attend any official training programs on the objectives, which would have helped me learn more about them and how they relate to my work. Nonetheless, I am dedicated to enhancing my skills in this area, and I hope to learn more about the Healthy People objectives and how to incorporate them into my work.

Application of Epidemiology in the Population Nursing Practice

Epidemiology is the method used to find the causes of health outcomes and diseases in populations. The patient is the community in epidemiology, and individuals are viewed collectively. Specifically, epidemiology is the “scientific, methodical, and data-driven study of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants (causes, risk factors) of health-related states and occurrences (not just diseases) in defined populations” (neighbourhood, school, city, state, country, global) (CDC, 2022). It is also the application of this study to control health problems. The knowledge of epidemiology is crucial to the field of population nursing. Knowledge of epidemiology is critical for population nursing practice as it provides the necessary context for population health nursing work and helps to inform nursing decisions and strategies.

The field of epidemiology examines how diseases, injuries, and other health indicators are distributed in a community. With this information, nurses can evaluate a community’s health status, pinpoint pressing problems, and plan effective solutions (Friis & Sellers, 2020). It enables nurses to understand the impact of social, cultural, and environmental factors on population health outcomes and to respond to diverse communities’ health concerns with individualized, evidence-based interventions.

In population nursing, epidemiology supports the identification of modifiable risk factors associated with health issues. Nurses can better address health disparities and improve health outcomes if they have a firm grasp of the connections between a community’s healthcare infrastructure and health status (Gulis & Fujino, 2015). Population nurses can also use epidemiological data to track changing health concerns, shape educational efforts, and evaluate the results of health programs and policies (Gulis & Fujino, 2015). Population nurses can benefit from epidemiological research by learning more about the effects of government policies and the function of healthcare systems on people’s health. Suppose they are to effectively advocate for better healthcare access and quality for the entire population. In that case, population nurses must have a firm grasp on how governmental policy decisions and healthcare systems impact the health of communities.

Perhaps more crucially, epidemiology allows nurses to provide preventative, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative care in their communities. Maybe the most crucial function of population nurses is of prevention. Population nurses use epidemiological data to detect and control epidemics and outbreaks before they can spread significantly. In order to do this, they analyze epidemiological data to determine the origins of potential outbreaks, identify populations at risk, diagnose and treat patients showing symptoms indicative of an outbreak, and disseminate information to the general public about how to reduce their exposure to infectious diseases (Gulis & Fujino, 2015). Population nurses are better equipped to identify and address urgent health concerns when using epidemiological methods.

To further their preventative mission, population nurses often turn to epidemiology to educate the public on how to deal with health issues before they escalate. Hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and stress management are all topics covered. Population nurses play an important role in preventing health problems from becoming catastrophic by promoting healthy lifestyles among the general populace (Friis & Sellers, 2020). Additionally, population nurses use epidemiology to detect, diagnose, and treat diseases that have progressed to a critical stage. For more serious conditions, this may involve prescribing medicine and/or conducting diagnostic testing for the patient. Epidemiological studies provide population nurses with information about the prevalence of diseases in their areas and the populations at greatest risk. By using this data, they may concentrate their efforts where they will have the greatest impact.

Lastly, in the rehabilitative function, population nurses use their knowledge of epidemiology to the treatment and rehabilitation of patients. The best treatments and the most in need patients are identified using epidemiological data. They may also recommend adjustments in behavior to hasten healing or lessen the likelihood of relapse. Understanding epidemiology helps population nurses to identify causes of disease and health disparities in a population. This knowledge may help nurses to develop rehabilitation programs that focus on specific areas of health where interventions may be more beneficial in reducing underlying health risks. For instance, knowing about the prevalence of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and mental health issues in a population can help nurses to prioritize health initiatives that would be the most beneficial and tailored to those in need of assistance (CDC, 2022). Additionally, epidemiological data can help inform how best to allocate resources to attain specific goals, such as reducing disparities and improving access to quality healthcare services. Finally, familiarity with epidemiological trends enables nurses to be better prepared to respond quickly and effectively when diseases threaten a population.


Epidemiology is the medical subspecialty that investigates the causes, patterns, and methods for preventing and controlling disease. Population nurses benefit greatly from the study of epidemiology since it teaches them to recognize and manage a wide range of health risks and conditions, to pinpoint vulnerable populations, to probe the causes of epidemics, and to assess the results of various health policies and interventions. With this information in hand, nurses may provide care to their communities with greater precision, thus improving the health of the population as a whole. Nurses may help make sure their patients get the best care possible by keeping an eye out for changes in the population and reacting swiftly to any dangers to public health. In epidemiology, the term “prevalence rate” refers to the frequency with which an illness or disease is seen in a given community. As a result, nurses are better able to tailor their efforts to effectively reduce the overall incidence of specific diseases and conditions. The rate at which new cases of a disease or other health problem arise in a community during a specified time period is known as the incidence rate. It is important for nurses to be aware of the incidence rate for a variety of disorders so that they can identify those that are on the rise and investigate potential causes. Moreover, nurses can improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare delivery by using data on disease prevalence and incidence to zero in on communities with abnormally high rates of illness.


CDC. (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

Friis, R. H., & Sellers, T. (2020). Epidemiology for public health practice. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Godefrooij, D. A., De Wit, G. A., Uiterwaal, C. S., Imhof, S. M., & Wisse, R. P. (2017). Age-specific incidence and prevalence of keratoconus: a nationwide registration study. American Journal of Ophthalmology175, 169-172.

Gulis, G., & Fujino, Y. (2015). Epidemiology, Population Health, and Health Impact Assessment. Journal of Epidemiology25(3), 179-180.

Moreno-Agostino, D., Wu, Y. T., Daskalopoulou, C., Hasan, M. T., Huisman, M., & Prina, M. (2021). Global trends in the prevalence and incidence of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders281, 235-243.

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2020). Healthy People 2030.


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