In a recent editorial, “Our View: Falling short on ensuring women’s heart health” (May 26), the author advocated for increased research and improvements in physician-directed preventive and diagnostic care for heart disease in women. However, there was not a single mention of nurse practitioners and their role in the prevention of cardiac illnesses.
It is well documented that nurse practitioners provide high-quality, cost-effective care.
The patient-centered nature of nurse practitioner education, which includes coordination of care and sensitivity to the impact on health of social and psychological factors, makes these providers particularly well-suited to identifying many of the issues that could potentially lead to heart disease. However, public recognition of their role as diagnosticians and care managers pales in comparison to that of physicians.
A step in the right direction would be the creation of a consensus document that eliminates barriers to practice.
With full autonomy, nurse practitioners could expeditiously fill our nation’s gaps in primary care coverage — especially among lower-income individuals in underserved areas. The Framingham Offspring Study found that lower socioeconomic status resulted in an increased risk of heart disease of 53 percent, and this population also had higher rates of tobacco use and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
As the ongoing shift to a more cost-effective preventive approach to health care delivery continues, increasing value will be placed on interventions that facilitate risk reduction and early detection.
Awareness of the important role nurse practitioners play in preventive medicine is growing, but maximization of scope of practice and continuing development of public support are necessary for optimal utilization of these health care professionals in reducing the impact of chronic illnesses like heart disease.
Jeffrey C. Cole is a resident of Biddeford.