Representing the most trusted profession, nurses may be the ideal vanguard for improving the U.S. population’s long-term health. That is the premise and the platform of the American Nurses Association’s Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Grand Challenge.

Launched on May 1, the HNHN Grand Challenge is a social movement designed to advance Americans’ health by improving the health of the nation’s nearly 4 million registered nurses. “Nurses live and understand health,” says Bonnie Clipper, R.N., the ANA’s vice president of nursing practice and innovation. “But they also are very busy and hard-working people, so if there’s a way for them to be healthier that fits in with their lives, that’s a plus for them.”

By definition, grand challenges are broad, socially beneficial goals that strive to change the behavior of a large population by addressing a systemic, embedded problem through collaboration, joint leadership and a systems approach. Well-known examples include nationwide recycling and anti-littering campaigns, breastfeeding initiatives and efforts to encourage seatbelt use.

The HNHC Grand Challenge asks nurses to make a commitment to their health within five domains: nutrition, rest, physical activity, quality of life and safety. The prime vehicle for the grand challenge is Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation Connect, a web platform where nurses can create an individual online presence and take a comprehensive health survey. They may then make a wellness commitment, participate in professionwide health and safety challenges and interact with colleagues across the country on multiple discussion boards. To date, 6,000 nurses have taken the health survey and 10,400 have registered on the platform, using it at least twice a week, Clipper says. Some 250 partner health care organizations have also signed on to the effort, encouraging their staff to join monthly HNHC challenges and set personal health goals.

“Healthier nurses make better advocates to their patients and give better care,” Clipper says. “By improving their own health, their efforts also will cascade to improving the health of their families, their friends and their communities.” In addition to creating a healthier workforce, the ANA also believes the grand challenge will elevate nurses as role models and health educators.

The HNHN website and the health survey are free and open to all but were created as a provider tool, Clipper says. Participation has been robust, from hospitals and clinician offices to associations and nursing schools — and the challenge is working.

“I get stories almost every day from nurses sharing their successes, particularly with weight loss,” Clipper says. “People blog their personal stories and they motivate others.” She adds, “We saw this as a way to begin, but I think the finish line for us is health and wellness nirvana — creating a healthy nation is a lofty goal.”

Individuals may join the HNHN Grand Challenge directly by visiting www.healthynursehealthynation.org. For health care organizations interested in learning more about the HNHN Grand Challenge or becoming partners, an explanatory webinar and other enrollment information may be requested by emailing healthynurse@ana.org.