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WHO Year of the Nurse and Midwife: Leadership in Prevention, Protection and Promotion

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: All Our Health, midwifery, Nursing

a group of four young trainee nurses including male and female nurses , walk towards camera down a hospital corridor . They are wearing uk nurse uniforms of trousers and tunics.

As the largest and most trusted professional workforce, nurses and midwives are in a unique position to lead improvements for the nation’s health.

We are in all parts of the community, including schools, people’s homes, the workplace, national and local government, as well as traditional clinical settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and health centres.

I am unable to think of any other profession that has such a wide range of contacts with the public across the life course from cradle to grave. This therefore puts us in a unique position to support people to live long and healthy lives.

WHO Year of the Nurse and Midwife

In 2020, globally we are celebrating the World Health Organization’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife, in honour of the bicentenary of the birth of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.

Florence Nightingale changed the role of nursing and sparked worldwide health care reform through her keen interest in data and evidence.

While our access to data has certainly evolved since Florence was practising as a nurse, the need to use this data to understand the need for evolving our practice remains.

  • In 2015-17, the gap in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas in England was 9 years for males and 7 years for females
  • The gap for years spent in good health was 19 years for males and females
  • The inequality gap in life expectancy has increased significantly since 2011-13 for both sexes
  • Non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia are now the leading causes of preventable death and ill health in most middle- and high-income countries
  • Major behavioural, physiological and environmental risk factors (such as tobacco, dietary risk, obesity, high blood pressure and air pollution) are the main drivers for these diseases

As we mark the Year of the Nurse and Midwife we must use this as an opportunity to reflect on how nurses, midwives and other health and care professionals respond to the challenges that we face in the 21st century, as Nightingale did in the 19th century.

PHE's All Our Health programme

Working with Health Education England’s e-Learning for Healthcare team, Public Health England has developed a series of resources for health and care professions, which are brought together as part of our All Our Health programme. It’s a call to action for all healthcare professionals to use their skills and relationships to maximise their impact on reducing preventable ill health, premature death and addressing health inequalities.

The resources include useful links to data, national guidelines and a brief knowledge check for those wanting to measure their understanding of key topics. This is also a great way to provide evidence for continued professional development, which nurses and midwives can use for their revalidation.

The All Our Health framework also challenges professionals to consider a place-based approach to improving the public’s health. This includes new tools to explore public health issues across the ‘townscape’ to understand how we can truly work across our place.

Pregnant woman having an ultrasound at doctor's office, female gynaecologist using a transducer

Priority public health issues

All Our Health covers many priority public health issues which will be relevant to nurses and midwives working across the health and care system. However, some colleagues are not always sure where to start given the large number of topics covered within the framework.

Therefore my top 3 topics to start with would include:

  1. Smoking and tobacco
  2. Adult or childhood obesity
  3. Wellbeing and mental health

These three topic areas are relevant to every nurse or midwife, regardless of their professional setting. These areas impact the lives of millions of people across England both professionally and across our own families and communities that we live and work within.

Our All Our Health resources are a quick and simple way for nurses and midwives to recap and build on their knowledge about priority public health issues and find out about how they might embed prevention into their practice. Using them will help colleagues understand the transformative impact that prevention can have and how they can do even more to prevent illness, protect health and promote wellbeing.

Imagine the potential of every nurse and midwife committing to focus more on our priority public health issues of today. This would lead to more people living longer and healthier lives, which was one of the main reasons why I wanted to become a nurse in the first case.

We Learn courses

Finally, if you would like to sign-up to one of our free All Our Health We Learn courses taking place over the next couple of months, you can register here.

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