183230 Public health nursing and undocumented immigrant populations: Disrupting “illegal” borders

Monday, October 27, 2008: 9:30 AM

Denise J. Drevdahl, RN, PhD , Nursing Program, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA

Concern for the health and welfare of populations drives the work of public health, including public health nursing (PHN). Historically, whites have constituted the largest populations in the U. S., projections of population growth in the next decade predict a dramatic shift in U. S. racial/ethnic make-up. The shift to greater numbers of racial and ethnic groups, previously in the minority, amplifies the need to address health inequities in all populations. How have public health nurses positioned themselves to meet the needs of a diverse population, particularly the needs of undocumented immigrants—a group around which there is local, regional, and national dispute and debate?

The goal of health equity, embodied in this year's annual meeting theme, “Public Health without Borders,” mandates a commitment to justice and systematic assessment of health determinants. Active elements such as racism, poverty, environmental exposures, distribution of wealth, and social class play integral roles in influencing health equity. Knowledge about these factors informs how to move beyond understanding inequities to taking the steps necessary to ameliorate health inequities.


In this presentation, actions that can be taken by individual nurses, as well as PHN organizations, to promote the health and well-being of undocumented immigrants are offered.


Not applicable


Health inequities require the attention of all health care providers. As a discipline with a social mandate to care for all populations, PHN is required to work toward disrupting borders which contribute to health inequities experienced by immigrants.

Learning Objectives:
1. By the end of the session, participants will be able to explain the limitations of utilitarianism as an operative ethical principle. 2. By the end of the session, participants will be able to describe the implications of using justice as the operative ethical principle in increasing equitable health care across “borders”.

Keywords: Immigrants, Social Activism

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have presented and written about social justice in the past and am responsible for the content in this abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.