Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (July 28, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security, today announced the introduction of the Public Health Nursing Act, legislation that would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to bolster and maintain a comprehensive public health nursing workforce. Specifically, the legislation would authorize $5 billion annually over the course of 10 years to establish a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant program so that State, local, Tribal and territorial public health departments can recruit, hire, train and pay licensed registered nurses.

Public health interventions and preventative medicine have doubled life expectancy over the past 200 years. Most of this progress is due to the leadership of public health nurses who have improved marginalized communities’ health and social conditions through people-oriented, preventative health care. However, U.S. public health infrastructure has repeatedly faced budget cuts, leading to decades of disinvestment and a lack of U.S. public health preparedness, including during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“While other countries invested in public health preparedness before the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers in the United States continued to make budget cuts,” said Senator Markey. “Communities, especially unserved and underserved neighborhoods, have continued to unfairly pay the price. We asked our crumbling, old, and broken public health infrastructure to move mountains during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why I am introducing the Public Health Nursing Act. My legislation is an important step toward strengthening our public health infrastructure. When we invest in the nurses who continue to make health care possible in our country, we invest in the health, safety, and wellbeing of our communities.”

“For decades, communities across our country have been experiencing the impacts of the systemic underfunding of public health programs. Our public health infrastructure proved to be unprepared and ineffective to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and it continues to be ill-equipped to adequately respond to future pandemics. The public health nursing workforce has drastically declined in recent years due to a lack of investment. In order to build the robust and comprehensive public health workforce that our communities need, it's important to specifically invest in increasing the number of registered nurses (RNs) in this workforce. RNs have unique educational training, clinical experience, and licensing which are sorely needed in public health programming. National Nurses United strongly endorses Senator Markey’s legislation to invest in and expand the public health nursing workforce and encourages the Senate to advance this legislation,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN, President of National Nurses United.

In addition, the Public Health Nursing Act would infuse the U.S. public health system with 10 years of funding to:

  1. Recruit, hire, and train licensed registered nurses to support community health in a public health setting;
  2. Prioritize deploying public health nurses to support populations with high rates of chronic disease, infant mortality, or maternal morbidity and mortality, low-income populations, health professional shortage areas, regions with a shortage of maternity health care professionals, and rural or traditionally underserved populations;
  3. Protect collective bargaining rights; and,
  4. Ensure that funds are used to expand and not displace investments in public health nursing.

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.