Reaching the Millennium Health Goals

1 April 2013

International Nurses Day

Nursing’s role in helping achieve the United Nation’s Millennium Development goals is the theme for this year’s International Nurses Day.

International Nurses Day is celebrated on May 12 each year – the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth – and each year the International Council of Nurses chooses an annual theme.

This year the theme slogan is Closing the Gap: the Millennium Development Goals 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 to highlight the countdown to 2015 when the eight goals to reduce poverty and its impacts were meant to be achieved.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aim was to create a framework to galvanise development efforts, set priorities and focus attention, action and resources on meeting the targets set for each of the eight goals.

Key successes to date reported to the UN include reductions in levels of extreme poverty, halving the proportion of people without access to drinking water, and increasing the numbers of girls enrolled in primary schools but much work is still needed to be done.

“As the largest health care profession in the world, there is no doubt that nurses are key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” says ICN president Rosemary Bryant and chief executive David Benton.

“Nurses are often the only health professionals accessible to many people in their lifetime,” says the pair. “So nurses are particularly well placed and often the most innovative in reaching underserved and disadvantaged populations.”

In particular nurses have a role in achieving the three health related goals: goal 4 to reduce child mortality, goal 5 to improve maternal health and goal 6 to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

ICN reports that while there has been significant success in reducing global deaths of children under five, the majority of the 7.6 million child deaths that occur every year could be prevented using effective, affordable interventions. Also while there has been an almost halving in the number of women who die during pregnancy and childbirth there were still significant regional variations, with 56 per cent of maternal deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa.

The final health goal also shows significant regional variation with some successes but no room for complacency because of increased reports of resistance to anti-malarial treatments and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

ICN as an organisation has established five wellness centres for health care workers in sub-Saharan Africa and its MDR-TB project has educated and supported tens of thousands of nurses and health workers on helping combat the threat of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

It said another example of nurses working to meet the goals is the Southern African Network of Nurses and Midwives that works across national boundaries to maximise its resources and impact on health challenges like HIV/Aids.

“The countdown is on. The clock is ticking and we are running out of time. Each and every one of you can make a difference,” says Bryant and Benton. And they quote the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, ‘There is no global project more worthwhile. … Let us keep the promise’.