Global voice of nursing heard loud and clear at the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva

28 May 2019

Geneva, Switzerland; 28 May 2019 – The International Council of Nurses (ICN) spoke on behalf of the world’s 20 million nurses at the 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, which was held from 20 to 28 May 2019.

A delegation of 80 nurses, led by Erica Burton, ICN Senior Analyst, Nursing and Health Policy, intervened in a number of agenda items, ensuring that the voice of nursing is heard, and that the role of nursing is reflected, strengthened and supported at the world’s most important health policy decision-making body.

Ms Burton said:

‘ICN’s delegation this year had a high profile right across the WHA agenda, intervening on a number of items in order to raise the nursing voice and highlight the nursing presence. The announcement of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife in 2020 was a stand-out event during this Assembly.’

Howard Catton, ICN’s CEO, said:

‘Nurses play vital roles in the health of nations and ICN is here to make sure that their voice is heard on the world stage. We know that whenever nurses are listened to in policy making arenas, sensible, effective decisions are made, and health outcomes improve. As the global voice of nursing, ICN continues to listen to nurses and put their views forward forcefully for the good of humankind.’

ICN intervened in the following agenda items:

11.4 Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

ICN applauded governments and the WHO for continuing to make health central to the Agenda for Sustainable Development. Health is intertwined with all other aspects of life and it is important that all policies recognise this. ICN believes that the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved until inequities between populations are addressed. Nurses are working around the world to improve the health and wellbeing of others, irrespective of their social position in life, the crimes they might have committed or the lack of funds they have at their disposal. The voice of nursing is commanding because it sees the health needs of the patients beyond their medical diagnosis. ICN encouraged the WHO and governments to continue to involve nurses in their policies and strategies, and to provide global support for the expansion of advanced nursing practice roles.

11.5 Universal health coverage: Primary health care towards universal health coverage

The nursing profession has long believed that strengthening primary healthcare (PHC) is the most effective approach to ensuring universal health coverage. ICN believes that effective and safe delivery of comprehensive PHC services is dependent on the strength, capacity and capability of the health workforce. ICN called on governments to invest in quality education, recruitment and retention strategies, and assurance of decent work and fair pay. Nurses want to work with the WHO and other stakeholders in making the PHC vision a reality.

11.8 Follow-up to the high-level meetings of the United Nations General Assembly on health-related issues: Prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases

ICN highlighted the many nurses who are taking on the management of noncommunicable diseases and providing high-quality, accessible and cost-effective services. ICN called on WHO’s member states to enable nurses to work to their full scope of practice and support the development of advanced roles that will ensure high quality care that meets the changing needs of populations.

12.2 Member state mechanisms on substandard and falsified medical products

ICN has released a position statement on this important issue to help guide National Nurses’ Associations, nurses, educators, researchers and policy influencers on how to reduce the risks posed by substandard and falsified products. Such products pose significant threats to health and undermine people’s confidence in healthcare. ICN is a partner in the Fight the Fakes campaign to raise awareness about the threat of substandard and falsified products. ICN encouraged member states to engage in the campaign and foster collaborative action with stakeholders in the fight against such dangerous medical products.

12.3 Human resources for health – WHO Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel: third round of national reporting

ICN respects and supports the rights of nurses to pursue professional achievement and to improve the circumstances in which they live and work. International migration poses policy challenges for health, education, immigration and regulation, and unethical recruitment is compromising the capacity of some countries to sustain their health systems. ICN urged government organisations to collaborate with nurses to develop and adopt regulated and ethical recruitment practices and effective human resources planning. ICN is working with the WHO on the first State of the World’s Nursing report, which will provide a global picture of the nursing workforce and inform national policies for strengthening nursing. Member states were urged to support this report by contributing their own national reports on the nursing workforce.

12.4 Promoting the health of refugees and migrants

ICN described how nurses are often at the frontline of migrant, refugee and displaced persons’ physical and mental health services. ICN welcomed the draft global action plan and its efforts to build international co-operation to promote the health of refugees and migrants. ICN encouraged the WHO and governments to continue to work co-operatively with nurses in the planning, implementation and evaluation of strategies and to promote refugee and migrant health.

12.6 Patient safety: Global action on patient safety

Patient safety is of utmost importance to nurses and ICN urged governments to invest in safe nurse staffing. Having appropriate number of properly qualified nurses is proven to be cost-effective in preventing untoward incidents in healthcare settings. ICN supports a just culture of safety which enables staff to openly and honestly report near misses and incidents without fear and allows future learning and improvements. ICN believes that teamwork and empowering patients to be involved in their own care are key enablers of quality services and patient safety.

ICN also gave an intervention on behalf of the members of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA): 12.8 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030)

Speaking on behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), ICN supported the conclusions of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and committed to removing the barriers identified by the Commission, which are preventing progress to achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls. ICN and the WHPA urged member states to invest in and support the healthcare workforce, the majority of which are women.

On Friday 24 May, WHO Member States designated 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

Note for Editors

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses’ associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally, ICN works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the World Health Organization, which determines its policies, appoints its Director General and approves and oversees its budget.

For further information please contact

Gyorgy Madarasz, Press Officer, International Council of Nurses, Tel: +41 22 908 01 16