Skip Repetitive Navigation Links

The Rhode Island Nursing Education Center’s population health symposium.

​Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) student Wendy Doremus, was one of 80 attendees at the first Population Health Symposium held on Dec. 6 at the Rhode Island Nursing Education Center. The center, a newly opened, state-of-the-art facility shared by Rhode Island College and University of Rhode Island nursing programs, is the hub of RIC’s Master of Nursing and DNP programs.

Doremus said a population health course she enrolled in this semester changed her perspective about how health care works and that her doctoral thesis will center on this topic.

Joanne Costello

Population health “examines the very basic things that human beings need like housing, healthy foods and transportation, and brings grassroots people into the decision-making process of what we target as health-care providers,’’ said RIC Associate Professor of Nursing Joanne Costello, chief organizer of the symposium. 

Panelists at the symposium were:

Kristine Campagna, chief of program development at the Center for Perinatal and Early Childhood Health for the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Maureen Maigret, chair of the Subcommittee on Aging in Community Long-Term Care Coordinating Council.
Therese Rochon, director of advanced illness management at VNA Care New England.
Ana Novais, associate director of the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Gina Rocha, vice president of clinical affairs for the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.
Libby Bunzli, principal policy associate for the Office of the Rhode Island Health Insurance Commissioner.

Discussion focused on the need to consider the many non-medical influences that affect health and to include a wider variety of partners as members of the health team. They noted that proponents of population health abide by a five-tiered health impact pyramid that cites socioeconomic factors at the bottom tier and counseling and education at the pyramid’s top tier.

“Traditionally, public health focused on health-care providers telling people how they could prevent illnesses like diabetes, hypertension or obesity,’’ explained Costello, who teaches the courses NURS 511: Population/Public Health Nursing I and NURS 709: Population Health.

“What we’re finding is that we haven’t had the outcomes we’ve wanted. Huge disparities exist regarding the health within certain groups of the population, particularly those of low socioeconomic status. Population health allows us to be more pragmatic and work with people to give them the tools rather than putting all the burden on individuals.’’

RIC nursing faculty describe this as the “upstream approach.’’ It is analogous to a nurse jumping into a river to save a person from drowning. Soon after, he or she sees another person and jumps in yet again. After saving a few lives, the nurse begins to ask why people are in the river in the first place.

Students who complete RIC’s nursing programs bring an important perspective and a set of skills to the health sectors of Rhode Island and beyond, said Doremus, who serves as coordinator of the Rhode Island Interprofessional Education and Practice Collaborative (RI-IPE).

“The goal is for our Doctor of Nursing Practice and Master of Science in Nursing students to become change agents in health care,’’ said Costello, adding that the population health symposium is an event she wants to organize on an annual basis. “We want them to be leaders at the table, making major health care decisions in our state and nation.’’

The application process for RIC’s Master of Science in Nursing program -Population/Public Health option is ongoing. For more information, visit here.  To see the criteria for RIC’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program, click here.