Caring for Populations Through the Lifecourse in 2014 - Christmas Message from Viv Bennett

Viv portraitChristmas and the end of one year and the beginning of a new one is a traditional time to reflect on the past and look to the future and in this blog I will give some highlights of 2014. But first it is worth reflecting on what drives us as nurses and midwives to strive make things better for patients, families and communities. In social media and in a recent voice piece, Jane Cummings and I shared some memories that have defined and inspired us in our practice and leadership. Mine included memories and lessons from Mr B, an elderly gentleman in every sense of the word, when I was nursing student. He taught me about the importance of ‘know my story: know me’, and of maintaining the dignity of a dignified man. Much of my career has been in child and family health and I remember the birth of one baby and the death of another that showed me the privilege of nursing at the best of times and the worst of times. And the family with two children with disabilities in extremely difficult social circumstances who showed me the courage of families in adversity and taught me to be a better health visitor. I encourage you to reflect on your top 5 memories and, if you are able, to share them on Twitter.

So what did 2014 bring for our contribution to improving population health?

As part of International Nurses’ Day in May, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) called for world leaders to focus on the global nursing workforce as a key priority for achieving better health for all and for nurses to demonstrate to the community, public, politicians and other professions that nurses are a force for change and a vital resource for health (see the ICN’s toolkit.) For International Midwives’ Day there was a similarly ambitious theme, ‘Midwives changing the world one family at a time," sending a strong signal that midwives provide care that changes families, communities and the world by saving the lives of mothers and babies. During the year I had the opportunity to work with WHO Europe to ensure that nurses and midwives prevention and population health was embedded in the draft strategic directions for action for the next 5 years - Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery European Strategic Directions Towards Health 2020 Goals

With the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the terrible loss of life and spread of the disease we have seen plenty of inspirational and selfless public health nursing amongst the health care professional in Africa, those volunteers who have gone to Africa to offer their expertise and those who have worked tirelessly in the UK to prepare our own country for any cases. This public health emergency reminds us of both the importance of core public health procedures, from infection prevention and control to screening, and the need for all healthcare practitioners to make population health their business.

This year has seen key publication which (if you have yet to do so) I would urge you to check out. NHS England published their NHS Five Year Forward View, shining a spotlight on prevention and Public Health England published From Evidence into Action: opportunities to protect and improve the nation’s health , which highlights 7 priority areas where evidence shows we should focus our efforts. And both of these documents make the case for a need to stimulate a new ‘movement for health’. ( see my PHE blog: )

In July DH and PHE published our Framework for Personalised Care and Population Health, a resource to support us as nurses, midwives, health visitors and AHPs to access best evidence for practice for population health roles and to demonstrate our impact. This is a ‘live’ document that will expand and develop in time as we bring together new areas of evidence. It supports nurses, midwives and AHPs to rise to the challenge of the vision for health as touched upon in the previous paragraph. In November we published our second release with a number of new sections and we would still welcome your input and views on future development. Please send any comments to

We’ve held three excellent ‘Weeks of Action’ this year. These are weeks where we focus on a specific area of population health and seek to build our social movement for health through traditional and social media, spending time with front line professionals and educators and listening to and sharing what families and communities tell us. We started with health protection in February, followed by health improvement in June and concluded with helping families and giving children and young people the best start to life in November. With each ‘week’ we have expanded our audience and widened our reach and I hope we have demonstrated the diverse and significant contribution to population health of healthcare practitioners in all walks of health and social care.  Thank you all who participated. In our last week you contributed to 5850 tweets which reached over 2.2 million Twitter accounts and had over 7400 views of our blogs.

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and the best wishes for the New Year. I would like to take this opportunity for a heart felt thank you for all you have contributed to the health and well-being of patients, families and communities in 2014. I look forward to working with you all in 2015 in further developing the nursing and midwifery contribution to population health and to building the ‘social movement for health’ in our society.

Viv Bennett

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