Support Nurses and Midwives

Dr Rajiv Kumar Gupta

Every year, 7th April is celebrated as world health day under the aegis of WHO (World Health Organization) and its allied organizations to generate global health awareness on topics of current priority area of concern for WHO. World Health Day is one of the eight global health campaigns marked by WHO; others being World TB day, World Immunization week, World Malaria Day, World No-Tobacco Day, World AIDS Day, World Blood Donor Day and World Hepatitis Day.
In the first World Health Assembly held in 1948, it was decided to celebrate 7th April each year from 1950 as the World Health Day. The day marks WHO founding and is an opportunity by the organization to draw worldwide attention on a specific health theme. Many important health issues have been focussed in the last 70 years to draw global attention including maternal and child health care, non-communicable diseases, Universal Health Coverage, climate change etc. The celebration is marked by activities which extend beyond the day itself and serves as an opportunity to bring these important aspects of global health into public domain.

world health day

This year, the day will focus on the vital role played by nurses and midwives in providing health care around the world and the call to strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce.
The tagline for 7th April 2020 is: Support Nurses and Midwives.
Globally 70% of health and social workforce are women; nurses and midwives represent a large portion of this. Nurses and midwives play a key role in caring for people everywhere including in times of outbreaks and settings that are fragile or in conflict. Achieving health for all depends on availability of adequate number of well trained, educated and adequately supported nurses and midwives. They know the traditions, socio-cultural milieu and local practices of the communities making them indispensable and have a relationship with patient which is based on trust. They are critical for maternal and newborn health as well as family planning and could avert over 80% of all maternal deaths , stillbirths and neonatal deaths besides preventing 25% of pre-term births. Nurses along with other health workers are at the forefront of COVID-19 response-providing high quality, respectful treatment and care, leading community dialogue to address fears and questions; and in some instances collecting data for clinical studies. Simply put, without nurses and midwives, there would hardly be any response in terms of health and disease.
On this day, WHO and its partners will make a series of recommendations to strengthen the nursing and midwifery workforce. This vital to achieve national and global targets related to universal health coverage, maternal & child health, communicable and non- communicable diseases including mental health, emergency preparedness and response, patient safety and delivery of integrated and people centred case among others, First ever state of world’s Nursing report 2020 would be launched on this day. The report is likely to provide a global picture of nursing workforce and support evidence based planning to optimise contributions of this workforce to improve health and wellbeing for all. Report will set the agenda for data collection, policy dialogue, research and advocacy and investment in the health workforce for generations to come.
On this day and the days ahead, different sections of society are expected to express their gratitude to these front line warriors.
General Public- They are expected to show nurses and midwives appreciation for their work and thank them for what they do to keep us healthy. In this context, world over people are applauding the untiring efforts being put in by health care workers to combat the pandemic of COVID-19. General Public can also call on local leaders to do more to support nurses and midwives and make investments that enable them to optimize their full potential.
Policy Makers- They should plan to invest more in nursing and midwifery education and their employment generation so that universal health care becomes a reality everywhere. They also need to take steps to improve gatherings of workforce data in order to better target resources and make changes where they are needed most.
Health Workers- The fellow health workers need to show respect to both nurses and midwives, listen to their views and explore their ideas and engage them more in decision making.
We all can share photos and videos of and from nurses and midwives or other health workers to explain the importance of their work which is vital. Also, we can develop a petition to demonstrate a wider support for change. For this, we can gather signatures, submit the request to authorities and publicize it widely. And finally, if you are a nurse/midwife, you can share your concerns with people who make policies that can make a difference.
Nurses and midwives are backbone of any health team because of their unique role of working with people from birth to death. According to WHO, key investment areas for future include:-
* Accelerate investments in nursing and midwifery education.
* Employ more specialist nurses.
* Invest in leadership skills of nurses and midwives.
* Make midwives and nurses the heart of primary health care.
* Support them in delivering health promotion and disease prevention.
(The author is Professor Community Medicine GMC, Jammu)