There is a clear divide between the real care nurses must give — and do give, every day — and the laypersons perceptions of nursing (Scher 2003).
Scher, Betty. (2003). Second opinion. Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing Journal.
1(1). Retrieved http://www.son.jhmi.edu/JHNmagazine/archive/spring2003/pages/second_opinion.htm
In my work as a nurse on the med/surg floor of an urban hospital, I encountered many individuals with lifestyle-related issues. Heart disease, diabetes, and strokes may present themselves as acute situations, but often the real precipitating cause is related to choices about diet and exercise the individual has made over the course of a lifetime. A recent sociological theory that can help address this issue is the concept of social contagion: individuals tend to norm their health behaviors to the lifestyle choices of their friends. If their friends make good choices regarding food, exercise, and preventative care, they are likely to do so as well. If grabbing a fast food burger and watching television rather than going for a run after work is normal in a circle of friends, all of the friends are less likely to listen to good advice from their healthcare providers, until it is too late.
The idea of social contagion can be helpful when addressing lifestyle issues.
It stresses viewing health as a community-based issue. Improving peoples health requires creating community spaces for healthy cooking classes, physical recreation, and eliminating processed foods from the area, and incentivizing healthier behaviors for all friends in the area. Social cognition theory can also be important in reinforcing positive rather than negative norms of behavior. For example, in the case of young, adolescent girls, eating disorders are often observed to spread much like an infectious disease, as behaviors and attitudes are modeled upon one another (Forman-Hoffman & Cunningham 2008). While these disorders, like lifestyle-related disorders, may have a biological component, the clustering of such illnesses within specific geographic areas of the United States suggest that social modeling and contagion is also a factor, and that their spread cannot be explained by biology alone.
Forman-Hoffman, Valerie L. & Cassie L. Cunningham, Cassie L. (2008). Geographical
clustering of eating disordered behaviors in U.S. high school students.
International Journal of Eating Disorders, 41 (3): 209-214..