Since its inception at the First Health Assembly in 1948, World Health Day has celebrated a specific theme each year. Over the past 50 years, World Health Day has highlighted mental health, children’s health, maternal care, climate change, and more. Celebrations and events that honor the theme take place worldwide, and this year is no different.
World Health Day 2020 celebrates nurses and midwives and the integral role they play in global health. It is especially important to support and honor nurses and other health workers this year because they are at the forefront of COVID-19 response, providing treatment, assistance, and care for people with the virus. Some of them have opened up about their fears, yet they still fight on, working tirelessly to help the world overcome this pandemic. Other nurses and health care workers are even coming out of retirement to help provide support and care during this time.
Nurses and midwives are putting their lives on the line to care for coronavirus patients. In Kirkland, Washington, dozens of nursing home staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Over 160 employees at the Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, have been quarantined at home after being exposed to patients who tested positive. This forced the medical center to hire 54 temporary nurses to help care for new patients. These are just two examples of the same story that is taking place at hospitals and care facilities around the world.
Bonnie Castillo, head of National Nurses United, reported that the lack of protective equipment is a critical issue for both nurses and midwives. Without proper protective gear, health workers can easily contract the virus. Everyday people don’t need to stockpile N95 respirator masks, especially since they are encouraged to remain indoors and practice social distancing. Nurses and midwives need these respirator masks because they are on the frontline, engaging in close contact with COVID-19 patients to help keep them alive and safe.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nurses and midwives account for 50% of the global health workforce. Even though this is the case, there is a global shortage of nurses and midwives, with the largest shortage being in Southeast Asia and Africa. In fact, the WHO estimates that an additional nine million nurses and midwives will be needed by 2030. The fewer nurses and midwives there are, the longer it will take to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 on general health and well-being.
What Is Sustainable Development Goal 3?
The aim of this initiative is to improve the health of millions of people around the world. In addition to reducing the rates of maternal and child mortality, the goal is also to help fight the leading communicable diseases. The lack of nurses and midwives means that half of the world’s population doesn’t have access to essential healthcare services, which explains why diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are responsible for many fatalities each year.
According to 2015 statistics, 303,000 women around the world died because of pregnancy or childbirth complications. Nearly all of these deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, two-thirds of which were in sub-Saharan Africa. Another 2015 statistic is that the under-5 mortality rate was 42 deaths per 1,000 live births. Available data suggests that these numbers could’ve been prevented with more nursing and midwifery personnel. From 2013 to 2018, more than 55% of all countries had fewer than 40 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 people. Finally, 98% of developing countries had fewer than 40 nursing and midwifery personnel per 10,000 people.
We don’t want to leave you on a sad note because there is improvement, and positivity is of the utmost importance in times like these. Thanks to nurses and midwives, that under-5 child mortality rate dropped to 39 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. Roughly 81% of childbirths in 2018 took place with the assistance of a midwife, a drastic improvement from 69% in 2012.
Please show appreciation for your nurses and midwives this year. They are beautiful souls who are working long hours every day to make the world a healthier place. Support them in any way you can; they’ll appreciate the love.