The Nurse as Health Policy & Public Health Specialist

The Health Policy specialty, established in 2002, was the first health policy specialty program for nurses in the US. This cross-disciplinary program prepares students to assess the policy dimensions of issues in the clinical practice, teaching, and research environments within which they work and to translate between practice and policy worlds.

The Advance Public Health Nursing specialty provided a foundation for planning and evaluating community/public health programs; learning about community/public health concepts, health promotion, population-level interventions, grant writing, health care systems, leadership, and health policy; addressing health disparities of vulnerable and diverse populations; understanding and applying complex public health/population-level data; advancing health equity in public health through a social justice frame; and practicing and consulting in diverse and multicultural settings.

In 2022, the Health Policy specialty and the Advanced Public Health specialty combined to create a new speacitly, Health Policy & Public Health.

Public policies are the public actions taken by policy makers at the federal, state and local levels. These actions can include budgetary changes, legislative actions, regulatory initiatives, and other legal and advocacy work. Public policy work involves the process of public discourse, and requires a variety of skills and knowledge. Before nurses can advocate effectively  for public policy change, they need to understand the policy and politics of health and health care, including the financial incentives that influence multiple organizations.

The curriculum is designed to provide academic preparation in health policy. It builds upon content from multiple disciplines, as policy is an arena in which multiple disciplines participate. It draws out policy lessons that extend beyond the US system to include global health policy issues. In addition to attending courses with the regular faculty of the program, students have  opportunities to attend small seminars with guest faculty who are conducting innovative policy research or leading real-world policy initiatives. Most class sizes are small, facilitating dialogue with faculty and practice of policy skills. In addition, there are opportunities to become involved in world-class policy research. The UCSF School of Nursing is consistently among the top institutions in the country for NIH research funding, and faculty regularly involve students in their research and teaching.

This innovative program is housed in the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in the School of Nursing. The program involves faculty from the Community Health Systems department and the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, as well as other departments in the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine and several research institutes and centers at UCSF.

These include the Center on Social Disparities and Health, the Institute for Health and Aging, the Phillip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, the Center for Research and Innovation in Patient Care, the Center for the Health Professions, and the Center for Tobacco Research and Education and more.