Sunday, March 2, 2008

Global Health Issues and Nursing

The successes & failures of healthcare are felt worldwide.

The issues and challenges of healthcare exist both domestically and worldwide. Globally, nurses are the largest group of healthcare providers (Dickenson-Hazard, 2004). As the healthcare system continues to change, nursing as a profession will redefine its role as not only caregivers but as global leaders (Korniewicz & Palmer, 1997). The newly defined role that nurses will take on will be influenced by medical and ethical issues caused by problems which affect everyone, regardless of national identity such as, natural disasters, war, genocide, pollution, and HIV/AIDS among other issues.

In 2004-2005, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified eleven of the top global health priorities which included malaria, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, tobacco use, maternal health, the environment, and healthcare systems (Dickenson-Hazard, 2004; Brundtland, 2001). In addition, 33% of deaths worldwide are caused by malnourishment, adverse consequences of unsafe sex, high blood pressure and cholesterol, tobacco and alcohol use, sanitation and hygiene, unsafe water, iron deficiency, and obesity (WHO, 2003; Dickenson-Hazard, 2004). Nancy Dickenson-Hazard (2004) noted in Global Health Issues and Challenges, that the health issues and risk factors previously noted, are further complicated by “cultural, language, religious, economic, social, and political factors” (p 6). Even though, these factors are the main reasons why some societies are isolated, common health goals and solutions transcend these differences (Dickson-Hazard, 2004). In Perspectives in Global Health Care, Huttlinger and Schaller-Ayers (2007) concluded that collective efforts made by individual governments and international organizations to make improvements to the economies of all countries is met with difficulty and failure. One reason is because many countries do not find importance in the link between government accountability and accessible healthcare. This nonchalant feeling in respect to a government's responsibility to provide healthcare unsurprisingly results in failure of equal access to basic healthcare. It also leads to inappropriate use and allocation of resources for high- cost technology.

The previous facts, beg the question: “What can be done?” In 2005, the United Nations created the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). These include eight goals agreed to be reached by the year 2015 by all countries and all leading development organizations. The MDG’s range from reducing poverty, to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, to providing global primary education. Since the MDG’s have been agreed upon by all countries and major international health organizations, the roles that nurses play not only in international organizations, such as The International Council of Nurses (ICN) but also domestically (for example, RN’s in hospitals), are important, because nurses and healthcare providers everywhere need to start working towards achieving the MDG’s.

ICN Logo

The goal of international nursing organizations is to promote global health and to advance the nursing profession through education and the unification of nurses globally. There are three main categories of international nursing organizations: professional, governmental, and non-profit or faith based. Professional nursing organizations like ICN or Sigma Theta Tau work towards improving the status of nurses throughout the world. Governmental organizations like the Peace Corps aim to “promote world peace and friendship” by working towards helping interested countries to achieve equality of all men and women and to promote mutual cultural and ethnic understanding and acceptance (Burkhardt & Nathanial, 2008). Nurses in non- profit organizations volunteer to provide healthcare services to individuals. Nurses in religious organizations provide the same services as in non- profit organizations, but also often evangelize in the countries in which they volunteer.

A military nurse at work.

Starting today, it is important for nurses in every country and every organization to realize the power and influence the nursing profession holds. As the year 2015 draws near, healthcare providers of all professions must make strides towards meeting the goals of the MDG in order to ensure a healthier world for future generations.
*Photo Caption: A military nurse at work


Burkhardt, MA., & Nathaniel, AK. (2008). Ethics and Issues in ContemporaryNursing (3rd ed). Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar Learning.

Brundtland, GH (2001). Priorities for the Biennium 2004-2005. WHO Executive Board Report,109th Session: Provisional agenda item 4.2, December 7, 2001. Retrieved November 27, 2007, from http://www.who_int/gb/EB_WHA/PDF/EB109/eeb10919/pdf.

Dickenson-Hazard, N. (2004). Global Health Issues and Challenges. Journal of NursingScholarship, 36(1), 6-10.

Huttlinger, K., & Schaller-Ayers, J. (2007). Public Health Nursing: Population-Centered HealthCare in the Community. In Mosby Elsevier (Eds.), Perspectives in Global Health Care 7th ed.(pp. 68- 90). Canada: Mosby Elsevier.

Korniewicz, DM. (1997). The Preferable Future for Nursing. Nursing Outlook, 45(3), 108-13.

World Health Organization. (2003). World Health Report, 2002. Retrieved November 27, 2007 from