Nurses: A voice to lead – Health is a Human Right #International Nurses Day

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Nurses: A voice to lead – Health is a Human Right #International Nurses Day

May 12th 2018

Nurses have many roles: they provide and manage personal care and treatment, work with families and communities, and play a central part in public health and controlling disease and infection. Nurses are often the first and sometimes the only health professional that people see and the quality of their initial assessment, care and treatment is vital.

International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every May 12, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. (WHO SEARO)

It all began in 1953, when Dorothy Sutherland, an official with the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, contacted President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposing he proclaim a “Nurses’ Day”. However, he did not approve her proposal at that time. The International Council of Nurses has celebrated on May 12th since 1965.

May 12th is an important date to all nurses, as it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered the founder of modern nursing. In January 1974, this day was finally officially made International Nurses Day. Each year since then, ICN prepares and distributes something called the International Nurses’ Day Kit which contains educational and public information materials, for use by nurses everywhere. (dayoftheyear.com)

The right to health and the ICN focus for the year Why is ICN focusing on health as a human right?

This broad focus enables nurses to understand the philosophical basis of all of our practice, whether that is in health promotion, illness or trauma prevention, or in acute and chronic treatment. It enables us to locate the health effects of the social determinants of health such as sanitation, adequate food, decent housing, good working conditions, education, equality and a clean environment.4 The role of nursing in addressing the inequalities, discriminatory practices and unjust power relations in the social determinants of health was the focus of International Nurses Day (IND) 2017 (‘Nurses: A Voice to Lead–Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals’).

It allows us also to understand the health care system from a person–centred and community– centred perspective. This year’s IND builds on the messages of the 2017 IND by now exploring issues of access to health care and the impact of access issues on health outcomes. Health systems are an essential element of a healthy and equitable society. When health is viewed as a human right, there is a demand on us to take action and a responsibility to enable access to a health system. This belief should be the cornerstone of an effective system, and the benefits of this will ultimately flow to communities and countries. The right to health is more than a catch phrase for health workers, civil society groups and non–government organisations in an effort to positively change the world. In the majority of cases, the right to health is a legal instrument that can be used to hold governments and the international community to account. It can and it should be used as a constructive tool for the health sector to provide the best care for individuals, communities and populations.6 UHC and how it translates in various countries is highly contextual. Fundamentally, no one should be denied access to their country’s appropriate standard of health care because of their financial status, where the health care provided leads them deeper into poverty. A human rights perspective on health means that wherever you live, you can receive health care to assist with your health needs. (International Council for Nurse)

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