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Public health and wellbeing: A matter for the midwife?

02 September 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 9


This paper will provide a critical narrative review of public health interventions in pregnancy and the role of the midwife in public health. The historical and political context of public health and midwifery will be examined to give a background to the current midwifery public health agenda. The article will identify specific public health interventions used in pregnancy by midwives and assess how midwives perceive their role in implementing them.

Midwives are important public health practitioners, who alongside other agencies can make a long-term, positive contribution to the life course of women and their families.

Public health is an important part of the midwife's role. Naidoo and Wills (2000: 181) define public health as:

Wanless (2004) takes the traditional view of public health further and places responsibility on society, organisations, communities and individuals to implement public health improvement through their organised efforts. Thus every individual has a role in public health and should take responsibility for health promotion, disease prevention and prolonging life.

Public health seeks to protect and improve the health of communities, identifying causes of poor health, disease and illness in a population and examining it from the wider social and economic standpoint. It makes links between factors such as employment and education to the level of health and wellbeing in and across populations, with the aim of positively impacting the wider social determinants of health and wellbeing.

Pregnancy and the postnatal period offers maternity care providers the opportunity to maximise the health and wellbeing of women and their families. Women may see many different health professionals during their pregnancy but the midwife is in a unique position to be able to build a relationship and have an impact on public health-both in the short and long term through continuity of care.

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