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Thank you to Lisa Summers for recently highlighted the important issue of opioid addiction in her commentary, "ANA partners to address a challenging public health problem", published in February issue of The American Nurse. Nurses, regardless of their practice settings, encounter patients and families who have been deeply affected by the tragedy of addiction.
Summers noted that awareness campaigns and community action are important and must be included when addressing prescription drug and heroin abuse problems. We agree and want to take this one step further. There must be a visible national nurse leader recognized by nursing and the public to help lead this effort.
Many ANA members may not be aware of current legislation in Congress to designate the Chief Nurse Officer (CNO) of the U.S. Public Health Service as the National Nurse for Public Health. The National Nurse Act of 2015 (H.R. 379/S. 1205) incorporates an important duty for this nurse leader revealing a connection to what Summers proposes. The CNO/ National Nurse will conduct outreach and education, while providing guidance and leadership for activities to promote public health. Nurses and other health professionals will be encouraged to volunteer and develop projects that educate and engage the public in prevention practices.
As we continue to explore solutions to solve opioid addiction, Summers acknowledges that nurses are critical to the success of any program that is undertaken to address this growing problem. Nurses are poised to assist in this national movement to reduce opioid addiction. The National Nurse for Public Health would provide the uniting voice and leadership to do so. For more information and to find steps you can take to advance the National Nurse Act, please visit http://nationalnurse.org.