Many of us are familiar with the World Health Organization (WHO), established as an agency of the United Nations in 1948 to promote world health. But fewer are familiar with the WHO's decision–making body, the World Health Assembly (WHA). At the WHA's annual meetings, WHO member state delegations determine policy, appoint leaders, and oversee financial policies and budgets.
The WHA has named 2020—the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale—the Year of the Nurse and Midwife to celebrate and honor the nurses who advance and refine patient care.
The importance of this designation.
The designation comes at a time of great need for more nurses. According to the WHO's Nursing and Midwifery fact sheet, nurses and midwives account for about half of the global health workforce—and yet there's still a critical shortage of nurses around the world. Nurses and midwives represent more than half of the global shortage of healthcare workers. The WHO estimates that the world will need an additional 9 million nurses and midwives by 2030; the biggest needs are in Southeast Asia and Africa.
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To help fill these roles and celebrate nurses, the WHO is developing the State of the World's Nursing report, which it aims to release by World Health Day, April 7, 2020. The report will emphasize the nursing workforce's influence in delivering universal health coverage and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, a 17-goal United Nations initiative to address and mitigate global challenges. It will also highlight areas for policy development over the next three to five years and provide a high-level description of the global nursing workforce.
Nurses are the key component in disseminating health information and care in UN member states. They provide care at the front lines, working with those most in need of care and health information. It's this close relationship that makes nurses so critical to improving healthcare and outcomes—and it's a large reason why the WHA is celebrating them in 2020.
The year of the nurse and midwife in action.
In 2020, the WHO will collaborate with international organizations that support and promote global health and nursing initiatives, including the International Confederation of Midwives, the International Council of Nurses, the WHO's Nursing Now campaign, and the United Nations Population Fund. Collectively, their goals for The Year of the Nurse and Midwife are to:
Celebrate the contributions of nurses and midwives in improving health globally.
Address the challenging conditions nurses and midwives face while providing care.
Advocate for increased investments in the nursing and midwifery workforces.
The WHO engages with regulatory authorities, governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations, accreditation bodies, professional associations, educational institutions, and other relevant stakeholders to provide the most current data regarding nursing and midwifery and its place on the world health stage.
Benchmark events during 2020.
In June 2019, the WHO unrolled the development plan for the State of the World's Nursing Report and included a calendar of events planned for the first half of 2020.
During the third quarter of 2019, member countries held policy dialogue workshops while gathering and validating data. The report will be written during the fourth quarter of 2019 and printed and translated during the first quarter of 2020 in preparation for its unveiling at the assembly for World Health Day on April 7, 2020.
International Nurses Day is May 12, 2020, and a celebration will be led by the International Council of Nurses and the Nursing Now campaign in Geneva.
Shortly thereafter, on May 13–15, 2020, is the WHO Global Forum of Government Chief Nursing Officers in Geneva, a biennial convening of the Government Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers and a Triad meeting that will discuss the report with national WHA delegations and share its implications.
The 73rd World Health Assembly in Geneva will be held May 18–23, 2020 to celebrate the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
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A strong year for nurses on the world stage.
The WHO and the WHA have initiated an important year for further stressing the need for and developing the appreciation of nurses in pursuit of their important goals for good global health. It will be encouraging to follow the reports from the WHO, the WHA, and the additional campaigns and initiatives working hard to further the nursing profession and the good it does worldwide.