Child and family health nursing (CFHN) is an area of healthcare in Australia that forms a vital part of primary health care for early childhood. It uses a preventative health care model heavily focusing on population health and health promotion (CAFHNA, 2001). The primary health care philosophy that CFHN revolves around is informed by international, national, state and local policies and guidelines that each have a relationship to coordinate and inform CFHN practices in a given community. Primary health care by definition is helping individuals in the first instance when the care is first needed (McMurray, 2007), and this is exactly what CFHN does in their everyday occupation. Child and family health nurses work at the ground level in the community helping families from when their child is born throughout their early childhood and introducing that family to the community healthcare services available to them (CAFHNA, 2001). Behind the scenes of all this, CFHN is guided by the many levels of philosophies and guidelines from healthcare authorities directing them to their scope of primary health care practice.
Internationally CFHN draws from the universal guidelines from global authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO).
Australia shows its commitment to primary health care through being a signatory of the Declaration of Alma-Ata which originated from a WHO and UNICEF health conference in 1978 in Alma-Ata aiming to achieve Health for All (WHO, 1978). At this conference 134 nations agreed to focus more on primary health care, increase access to healthcare, reduce social inequalities, prevent disease and promote wellness rather than treating just illness and disease (WHO, 1978). This highlights the importance of reaching individuals at the first point of contact within their family and the community setting (WHO, 1978), giving great importance to areas like CFHN.
Following on from the Declaration of Alma-Ata, in 1986 the WHO developed the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion which further influenced community health nursing with philosophies inline with helping empower people to take control over their health, seeing health as a positive concept and incorporating the social as well as physical focus on health (WHO, 1978). This influences the practice of CFHN greatly by valuing the importance of helping the communities at the family level looking at the psychosocial determinants of health, providing information, education, social support and early intervention.
The United Nation (UN) plays a large part in informing Australia of global health care visions such as those outlined in The UN Millennium Development Goals (2007) including meeting the basic needs for all through eliminating poverty, increasing education levels, combatting disease, improving maternal health and reducing child mortality.
The WHO and UNICEF (2003) also sets CFHN guidelines for breastfeeding and infant nutrition goals within Australia, directing our national policies for this domain.
Between the UN, UNICEF and WHO it can be seen that international policies greatly influences the knowledge base that CFHN uses in routine practice within Australia.
There are many national policies and guidelines that also direct CFHN in Australia that are more specific and targeted to the Australian population. An example of this can be seen through the Child and Family Health Nurses Association (CAFHNA) guidelines. CAFHNA in conjunction with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Council (National Board, 2010) competency standards for Registered Nurses and Registered Midwives guide the CFHN in terms of what the professional standard for clinical skills, legal and ethical practice is required to practice as a CFHN (CAFHNA, 2009). These CAFHNA competency guidelines define the scope of practice for CFHN and are a means of evaluating performance and for CFHN to set clinical goals for development (CAFHNA, 2009). These roles defined by CAFHNA include maternal