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Abstract Public health realities in the United States indicate that unsafe physical surroundings, oppressive social arrangements, economic impoverishment, and political disenfran chisement threaten the safety and well-being of countless aggregates. To affect change in health-damaging conditions, nurses are urged to join with vulnerable groups, working together to expose oppressive situations and take action. As a guide for such emancipatory practice, the use of critical the ories as the conceptual basis for community health nursing is advocated.