Primary health care evolves from the economic, cultural, social, and political conditions of a country, and it is described as an essential part of health care that is universally provided to individuals in a community at the country's and community's expense (World Health Organisation [WHO], 1978). The goal of primary health care is to address the main local health problems, but it involves community education about these problems in addition to providing disease treatments (WHO, 1978). Furthermore, primary health care is concerned with nutrition promotion, sanitation standards, family planning, immunisation, disease control and prevention, and it promotes and relies on community and individual participation in primary health care functions (WHO, 1978).
Population health is concerned with policies and interventions that result in positive health outcomes within a community and further distribution of these outcomes among the individuals of the community (Kindig and Stoddart, 2003). Primary health care and population health overlap and complement each other because primary health care builds the fundamental infrastructure of the national health care system (WHO, 1978), so other aspects of national health care are built upon the principles, organisation, and functions defined in the country's primary health care policies and regulations. For example, primary care is provided to individuals, and population health is concerned with community health. However, population health depends on proper individual care because individuals with potentially communicable disease can be a threat to public health, so population health can plan its interventions in the community based on evidence collected from primary health observations during individual treatments.
Nurses can contribute to preventing epidemics through primary health care and population health because they can assume several important roles during potential or actual epidemic threats. For example, community education about current health issues is one of the functions of primary health care, so a registered nurse can assume the role of an educator and educate the community about the current threat. Community education is one of the most important aspects of nursing because their code of ethics requires them to keep the community accurately informed on health related issues (Australian Nursing & Midwifery Council [ANMC], 2006). Furthermore, the education informs community about prevention methods because primary health care supports the active participation of patients for both individual and public health.
In population health, registered nurses can assist in epidemic preventions through screening and surveillance. Surveillance is a continuous process which involves data collection and data analysis. Surveillance is constantly practised because it is used as a prevention method to identify possible outbreaks (Oleske, 2009). Once an outbreak is identified, screening is a process...