Empowering nurses to help deliver UHC

Professor Ilona Kickbusch
Professor Ilona Kickbusch
Co-Chair, UHC2030 and Chair, International Advisory Board, Global Health Centre

“We will not reach UHC if countries around the world do not find a way to train, hire and retain nine million nurses.”

We know well this statistic: the world has a shortfall of 18 million health workers. Perhaps less well known is that nine million of these are nurses. Nurses actually make up half of the health workforce and play a crucial role in delivering primary health care in communities – recognised as the bedrock for achieving universal health coverage (UHC). Quite simply, we will not reach UHC if countries around the world do not find a way to train, hire and retain nine million nurses in the coming years.

It is, of course, easy to write these words and advocate the need for more nurses globally, but what does this mean in practice for different countries? It is important to emphasise that nurses offer more than just strength in numbers. A report published by the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) and the UHC Forum 2018 makes the case for investing in nurses and midwives to improve services, as well as to bolster health promotion and disease prevention. Achieving UHC also requires both investing in women – who make up 70 per cent of the global health workforce – and addressing gender inequality in the health and social workforce, which weakens health systems and health delivery...

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