World Health Organisation Chief Nurse Elizabeth Iro is returning home to Rarotonga for the 19th South Pacific Nurses Forum  attended by nursing leaders from New Zealand and 12 other Pacific nations.

Iro, a former Cook Islands’ Chief Nursing Officer, Secretary of Health, president of the Cook Islands Nursing Association, was appointed in October last year as the Geneva-based WHO Chief Nurse.

She will be giving the first keynote speech at the conference which has a theme of Transforming Leadership: Nurses as Change Agents for Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and is also being attended by the International Council of Nurses President Annette Kennedy.

The forum will see the South Pacific launch of the global Nursing Now campaign that is seeking to raise the status and profile of nursing.

Also speaking at the forum is New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku who is part of the NZNO delegation that includes President Grant Brookes, NZNO Pacific Section Chair Eseta Finau, NZNO Kaumātua Keelan Ransfield and NZNO Chief Executive Memo Musa.

Nuku said NCDs, such as heart disease and diabetes, are probably the greatest health challenge Pacific countries now face. “We as nurses are at the coalface in this challenge. We deal with the deaths and illnesses caused by NCDs every day and we need to lead the way in prevention and management to improve the health of Pacific people.”

The first forum was held in 1982 in Fiji and the national nursing organisations and groups have been meeting two-yearly ever since at and the end of each forum produce a communique for future direction for nursing in the Pacific.

Topics to be covered during the forum along with NCDs including building nursing capacity in the Pacific, midwifery regulation and training in the Pacific, climate change and disasters plus extended practice and nurse prescribing.

New Zealand presenters at the Forum will include nursing and midwfiery leaders and experts from Auckland University of Technology, Alliance Health Plus, Manukau Institute of Technology, Victoria University of Wellington, Te Piki Oranga Ltd, Counties Manukau District Health Board, Auckland Diabetes Centre and the Office of the Chief Nursing Officer (Ministry of Health).

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