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Keywords:

  • health promotion;
  • inequalities;
  • nursing;
  • poverty;
  • practitioners;
  • primary care

This paper details a project which assessed the contribution made by nurses, midwives and health visitors to Targeting Health and Social Need (THSN). Targeting Health and Social Need is an important theme within the Northern Ireland Regional Strategy entitled Health and Wellbeing into the Next Millennium: A Regional Strategy for Health and Social Wellbeing 1997–2002 which is concerned with addressing inequalities in health status and social wellbeing. While there is a considerable body of research and information on variations in health and social wellbeing there is a paucity of corresponding research on those interventions which may improve the health of disadvantaged groups. Health professionals are addressing such inequalities so it is appropriate that their efforts should be recorded and assessed. The project was conducted jointly by the departments of nursing at The Queen's University of Belfast and the University of Ulster, funded by the Department of Health and Social Services and had a timetable that covered three phases. Phase 1 entailed the distribution of a survey questionnaire to all nurses, including those professionals working with community and voluntary groups, to assess their contribution to THSN. The paper describes the results from the 392 questionnaires identified (a response rate of almost 40%) and the work in phase 2 of analysing the responses by selection criteria devised by the Project Advisory Board to allow further investigation. The resulting interventions were reduced to 22 and in an overview of each of these a number of characteristics kept recurring that could serve to define aspects of ‘good practice’. These 22 case studies demonstrate the efforts made by nurses and health professionals to change behaviour, practice, the community and the environment. Also highlighted are the nursing competencies gained through working, the lessons learnt and the problems and difficulties encountered. The paper concludes that the use of qualitative research opens the door to measures of social position that reflect the ways in which people define themselves and the relationships that sustain them. Although there is still some way to go in understanding the different approaches to evaluation, an environment that fosters the monitoring and assessment of practice might be created in the future within the nursing community.