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Why all nurses play a critical role in population screening

24 June 2021
Volume 30 · Issue 12

Population screening is an important public health initiative that saves thousands of lives each year. Screening services are often poorly understood by non-public health professionals and the public. In addition, because screening programmes help to protect us from developing health issues later down the line, they often do not receive the recognition they deserve for the harm that they prevent.

Rather than diagnosing disease, the screening process recognises the chance that an individual may develop the condition being screened for (Wilson and Jungner, 1968; UK National Screening Committee, 2015). First developed in the early 1960s, population screening initially focused on the eradication of communicable diseases (Wilson and Jungner, 1968).

However, improved availability and accessibility of treatments means that contemporary screening practice is now wider than communicable diseases and covers the 11 NHS population screening programmes, which include screening for a number of cancer conditions (Department of Health (DH), 2015). Screening therefore marks the beginning rather than the end of a person's healthcare journey and is a significant component of early intervention. It relies on people understanding screening, being able to access services and clear messaging from health and care professionals.

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