People around the world experience health inequalities and the numbers of such people are far higher than one could expect. There’s a big gap that exists between the wealthy and the poor, the healthy and unhealthy, and the educated and uneducated.
People struggle to fulfill the most basic needs. Even within wealthier nations, the poor face significant obstacles: lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education & housing, safe environments, healthy food, clean water, and healthcare.
To balance the scale equally, in 2015, the 191 UN member states committed to achieving the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) by 2030. The goals address poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, prosperity, peace, and justice both between nations and within nations. Although only one of the SDGs specifically addresses health, advancing it will drastically improve the world’s health.
Nurses around the globe are well-equipped to play a role in achieving the SDGs. Their profession is mostly concerned with social, emotional and physical needs of the disadvantaged. Nurses are trained to understand the factors that shape a person’s life whether that person lives in poverty, lacks access to safe housing, or struggles with addiction, and how all these factors may affect that person’s health.
Nurses also know what suits best for people. They provide people with the best possible opportunity for health. Nurses have that required expertise to address the social factors of health to tackle the world’s most distressing health crises ignoring any kind of discrimination.
Nurses, as the largest component of the healthcare workforce throughout the world, can partner and lead efforts to help health systems become more sustainable, as well as make more sustainable choices in their own households and partner with others at the local, national, and international levels to reduce the impact of climate change. They can raise awareness of the health implications of climate change and advocate for policy changes. As disasters increase in intensity due to climate change, nursing’s existing collaborations and partnerships with humanitarian organizations will become more important in disaster risk reduction, response, and recovery.
Nurses must serve as partners and leaders in addressing the social determinants of health. That is why the US National Academy of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are collaborating on a second report on the future of nursing, which will be released at the end of 2020. This report will guide nurses and institutions in working together to better understand the social determinants of health, the unmet needs of individuals and communities, and nurses’ role in addressing them. Nurses, policymakers, other health professionals, and elected officials throughout the world will be able to use the report as a blueprint for how the nursing profession can address the social determinants of health to create a more just and equitable world.
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