The World Health Organization has provisionally designated the year 2020 as the “year of the nurse and midwife”, in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.
The proposal, revealed by the WHO’s executive board on 30 January, will now be presented to member states at the 72nd World Health Assembly for consideration and endorsement.
“The WHO’s work will bring the clear value of nurses into even sharper focus”
The international body said the year 2020 was also significant for it in the context of nursing and midwifery strengthening for “universal health coverage”.
The organisation is leading the development of the first-ever State of the World’s Nursing report, which will be launched in 2020. It will describe the nursing workforce in WHO member states.
In addition, WHO is a partner on the State of the World’s Midwifery 2020 report, which will be launched around the same time.
Meanwhile, the NursingNow! Campaign, a three-year effort to improve health globally by raising the status of nursing will culminate in 2020.
“Nurses and midwives are essential to the achievement for universal health coverage,” stated the WHO.
It said the campaign and the two reports were “particularly important”, given that nurses and midwives constitute more than 50% of the health workforce in many countries.
Strengthening nursing will have the additional benefits of promoting gender equity, contributing to economic development and supporting other sustainable development goals, it said.
Dame Donna Kinnair, the Royal College of Nursing’s acting chief executive and general secretary, backed the move.
“Modern nursing may be unrecognisable from the work of Florence Nightingale, but she would burst with pride at how far our profession has come,” she said. “Marking two hundred years since her birth with this dedication is extremely fitting.
“As the nursing workforce around the world face similar challenges this century, the WHO’s work will bring the clear value of nurses into even sharper focus as we collaborate with them to showcase innovation and skill,” she said.
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She added: “Different countries and different health services each experience the challenge of inadequate nurse numbers to safely staff services, a lack of investment in future generations or colleagues prevented from realising their full potential.
“If we are to address global health inequality and combat major disease in this century, that is something that must change,” said Dame Donna.
“We look forward to celebrations throughout 2020 but it must also be a year when the world comes together to take united and concrete action to place the health and wellbeing front and centre,” she said.