Aim: The purpose of this study was to explore the development of public health nursing in a primary care trust that focused around the evaluation of a newly introduced public health nursing role. The intention was to inform role development during the three year evaluation period. Background: Despite health visitors having been identified in the recent past as being in prime position to assume the public health role envisioned by the British Government in the New NHS, the vision for the 'new look' health visitor has been rather blurred. Methods: An action research approach utilised 22 individual and four group (number of participants 33) interviews with a range of stakeholders. Thematic analysis was used on all transcripts. Findings: Four main headings were identified to organise and present the findings - definitions of public health; continuum of practice; contextual factors in public health development; and inhibitors to public health practice development. The findings suggest that there are a number of factors challenging the health visiting response to the public health agenda. Facilitating clarity of role and purpose must be a management priority. A tool, developed from this study, offers a means to explore practice within a primary care - public health continuum and provides a schema against which to set and action practice development.