World Health Day, celebrated each year on 7 April, is a global health awareness day, which marks the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO). This year’s World Health Day shone a spotlight on the critical role of nurses and midwives in keeping the world healthy.
At a time when healthcare is high on every country’s agenda due to the COVID-19 pandemic, World Health Day highlights the key role of nurses and other healthcare workers in health crisis responses. The WHO also acknowledged the work of these professionals by naming 2020 as the ‘International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife’, to coincide with the 200-year anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale. Indeed, Nightingale2020, an international conference to showcase the work of nurses and midwives is planned to take place on 27–28 October at ExCel London, a vast conference facility which is currently serving as the NHS Nightingale London field hospital to accommodate COVID-19 patients.
As part of World Health Day this year, the WHO answered questions regarding COVID-19 on Twitter and also launched the first State of the World’s Nursing Report, which provides the latest evidence and policy options for the global nursing workforce. The report emphasises how nurses are critical to deliver on the promise of “leaving no one behind” and the global effort to achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. As noted by Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General:
“Nurses are the backbone of any health system. Today, many nurses find themselves on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19. This report is a stark reminder of the unique role they play, and a wakeup call to ensure they get the support they need to keep the world healthy.”
To encourage individuals to get involved with World Health Day, the WHO has provided nursing and midwifery advocacy toolkits and resources, but most importantly, urges everyone to show their appreciation for the services of nurses and midwives in whatever way they can.
In a call to action, the WHO asks members of the public to:
- “Show nurses and midwives your appreciation for their work and thank them for what they do to keep us healthy.
- Call on local leaders to do more to support nurses and midwives and make investments that enable them to work to their full potential.”
Policy makers are urged to:
- “Invest in nursing and midwifery education and employment so universal health coverage becomes a reality everywhere.
- Strengthen and pay more attention to nursing and midwifery influence and leadership: health services will improve as a result.
- Take steps to improve gathering of workforce data in order to better target resources and make changes where they are needed most.”
As part of a recent wave of gratitude towards healthcare workers in the UK, an inaugural ‘NHS clap for our carers’ was held on 23 March, where members of the public showed their appreciation for National Health Service workers during the COVID-19 crisis. This initiative has now been extended to all key workers and carers and has become a weekly event, taking place every Thursday at 8 pm. As well as taking part in community initiatives such as this, you can also get involved in the WHO’s social media campaign by sharing photos and videos of nurses, midwives or other health workers using the tag #SupportNursesAndMidwives and explaining why their work is vital.