Climate Change and Health


Moving for Climate Change – Iberdrola members cycled from Vienna to Katowice.
Credit: Iberdrola

The 2018 UN Climate Change Conference known as COP24 wrapped up in Katowice, Poland this month amid an increasing sense of urgency about climate change and how to deal with it. The adoption of a set of operational rules will hold countries to their promises to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

The impact of climate change on human health has become increasingly evident in recent years.  The World Health Organization prepared a special report for COP24 on Health & Climate Change. This report reiterates the value of the Paris Climate Agreement as “a global safeguard for human health” and urges action to strengthen climate resilience. Measures to mitigate climate change have potential to improve health and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals. A section of the report focuses on health gains associated with specific mitigation actions in areas including transportation, households & buildings, agriculture and industry. Mobilizing the health sector is a sub-theme of this report: increasing engagement by the “trusted, globally connected” health community in advocacy is both necessary and viewed favourably. Further, the report asserts that governments and civil society organizations have an important opportunity to develop “green, climate-resilient health care facilities”, highlighting examples of low-carbon strategies in hospitals and health facilities (WHO 2018 pp. 42-44).

Health professionals and their organizations are demonstrating support for greater efforts at all levels. Earlier this year, the International Council of Nurses presented a statement to the 71st World Health Assembly on behalf of the World Health Professions Alliance. Entitled Health, environment and climate change, the statement expressed the commitment of its 31 million members to mitigate climate change and called on the WHO to include health professions in policy decisions on global strategies.

Other recent publications are worth reading for their focus on this important topic:

International Council of Nurses (2018) Position Statement: Nurses, climate change and health. See pp. 3-5  for ICN position and recommendations.

Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers published in November 2018 by the Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate change in conjunction with the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Public Health Association.

World Health Organization (2018). COP24 Special Report: Health and Climate Change. This link takes you to the report, press release and other supporting material.

By Nora Whyte – December 18, 2018

International Council of Nurses Update: October 2018

The next congress of the International Council of Nurses (ICN) will take place in Singapore from June 27 to July 1, 2019. Hosted by the Singapore Nurses Association, it will bring together the worldwide nursing community to explore theme Beyond Healthcare to Health through plenary presentations, concurrent sessions and networking opportunities. Details are available at the ICN Congress Site.

Since attending the previous congress in Barcelona last year, I have been following ICN’s impressive policy work and advocacy activities on important global topics including climate change and migrant health. Visit the position statements page to view and download recent statements organized by theme:

  • Nursing Roles in Health Care Services
  • Nursing Profession
  • Socio Economic Welfare of Nurses
  • Health Care Systems
  • Social Issues

ICN’s collaboration with the Nursing Now campaign, recently given a boost by the World Health Organization, points to the profession’s increased visibility and influence on the global stage. The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at WHO Headquarters in Geneva on October 4, 2018 was an occasion to celebrate and strengthen the partnership. The MOU formalizes a new commitment to support and advance nursing in improving health globally. ICN’s dynamic social media presence and a redesigned website have also contributed to increased visibility in promoting events, new initiatives and global health campaigns.  The ICN 2019 Congress will be a perfect opportunity to engage with the Nursing Now campaign and learn about its impact.

Update October 31: ICN and Nursing Now issued a Joint Statement following the Global Conference on Primary Health Care held in Astana, Kazakhstan (Oct. 25-26). Their statement contains links to the Astana Declaration and to a Civil Society Statement, endorsed by ICN and Nursing Now, calling for strengthening political leadership to uphold the vision of health for all.

By Nora Whyte – October 31, 2018


Revisiting Primary Health Care in 2018

Achill Island, Mayo, Ireland

This summer began early for me with a holiday in Ireland for a wonderful family wedding in Donegal and a chance to visit the beautiful West of Ireland full of stunning scenery, quiet byways and national parks. It was a memorable time exploring the coastal countryside at a leisurely pace and enjoying Irish hospitality along the way.

International travel is a great opportunity to gain perspectives on the world and to reflect on current events in different contexts. At home in Canada, I follow developments in both national and global health policy and politics.

Global health is in the spotlight this year with the 40th anniversary of the Alma-Ata Declaration on Primary Health Care (PHC). The philosophy and approach of PHC guided governments in many countries during the past four decades. To mark this anniversary, the Global Conference on Primary Health Care will be held in Astana, Kazakhstan this October co-sponsored by the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the Government of Kazakhstan.

In revisiting PHC in the current era, the conference will make the link to the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) movement and the Sustainable Health Goals. It will be fascinating to follow the event on social media and to read the final declaration. The draft version has been circulated for comment and will undergo changes before endorsement by conference participants. I like the attention to political will, knowledge for health systems improvement, effective use of technology and greater social accountability. There is recognition of the role of youth in contributing to PHC achievement and attention to equity and determinants of health. I wonder if the notion of political will has gone far enough and how this will be handled in a high-level global assembly.

Critical perspectives are coming forward in response to the proposed declaration. The organization Women in Global Health has pointed out the declaration’s failure to note the importance of gender equality in achieving UHC and PHC. As highlighted in its statement, “effective health systems must ensure gender parity at all levels of decision making to harness women’s perspectives and talent.”

Nursing Now and the International Council of Nurses have issued a joint statement on the draft declaration. A key point is recognition of the “central role” of nurses and midwives in PHC. The joint statement concludes with a strong endorsement:

We strongly agree that political will and sustainable financial resources will be vital to delivering the ambitions of the Astana Declaration. Insufficient investment, the lack of long term planning and political commitment in health services and the workforce continues to be a major impediment to progress. We resolutely support a declaration that will deliver change and achieve UHC through PHC.

My own conclusion is that this is an exciting time for global health with renewed energy in the PHC movement and opportunities for critical commentary in the months leading up to the Global Conference on Primary Health Care. This is most definitely a time to stay tuned!

By Nora Whyte – August 2, 2018

Nursing Now: Campaign for Nursing & Global Health

Nursing Now is a three-year campaign to raise the profile of nursing globally and to enhance the profession’s contribution to people’s health and health systems. In partnership with the International Council of Nurses (ICN), the Burdett Trust in the UK, World Health Organization and others, Nursing Now has described the campaign goals to be achieved by the end of 2020:

  • Greater investment in improving education professional development, standards, regulation and employment conditions for nurses;
  • Increased and improved dissemination of effective and innovative practice in nursing;
  • Greater influence for nurses and midwives on global and national health policy;
  • More nurses in leadership positions and more opportunities for development at all levels; and
  • More evidence for policy and decision makers about where nursing can have the greatest impact, what is stopping nurses from reaching their full potential and how to address these obstacles.

The campaign launch at the end of February 2018 received an enthusiastic response as events were held in various locations and promoted widely through social media. Having first heard about early ideas for Nursing Now during the ICN Congress in Barcelona (May 2017), I have been following developments with great interest and will continue to do so during the three-year campaign. I was pleased to read an overview of the campaign in the March-April issue of the Canadian Nurse including a profile of Sarah Walji who represents young nurses on the Nursing Now campaign board.

Nursing Now will look for opportunities for policy influence through presenting ideas to special commissions and participating in global health events. An initial opportunity this year is the High-level Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases. The Nursing Now team has been seeking input from nurses in preparing a brief to showcase nursing’s role in promoting health and preventing disease.

What now? Suggestions for involvement include pledging support, joining or setting up a national group, providing case studies and contributing to social media discussions. As a first step, nurses can sign up to receive regular updates.

The campaign has great potential to raise the profile of global and national nursing organizations including the ICN and its member national associations. It will be interesting to track achievements during the next three years to observe its impact and to learn about the most effective strategies for realizing the desired changes. It will be important also to consider any issues or concerns arising from this major initiative. It may be that all the focus on nursing is viewed negatively by other professions and there could be challenges embarking on the campaign in countries where governments have limited interest in a strong health sector. It will be important in all aspects of this initiative to refrain from being inward-looking as the nursing profession increases its collective capacity and policy presence for global health.

Follow on Twitter: @NursingNow2020

Posted by Nora Whyte –  April 29, 2018


Human Resources for Health: Highlights from Fourth Global Forum

ForumLogo-Option3-1During the past few months I have followed several national and global conferences and events. One that caught my interest was the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health held in Dublin in November 2017. Although I could not attend in person, I did enjoy the live streaming of sessions and the social media interaction on the theme – Building the Health Workforce of the Future. The forum concluded with the Dublin Declaration on Human Resources for Health and a Youth Call for Action.

As an observer from afar it was interesting to listen to some of the plenary sessions and to learn about organizations collaborating on this strategic agenda including the Global Health Workforce Network. There is an increasing recognition of the benefits of investing in a well-educated, supported health workforce, both in terms of a nation’s economic growth and health system development.

The Youth Call for Action is noteworthy because it marked the first time that students and young health professionals have met in an organized Youth Forum attached to the Human Resources for Health Forum. Key messages from their participation in the forum include:

  • Youth are an essential agent of change in the world;
  • Youth are an asset for achieving the 2030 agenda on sustainable development;
  • A need for country-level action on decent jobs for youth in health and social sectors;
  • Create opportunities for youth to participate in global meetings; and
  • Call upon the World Health Organization to establish a WHO Hub on Youth within the Global Health Workforce Network.

The president of the International Council of Nurses, Annette Kennedy, was a speaker at the closing plenary. She pledged support from ICN for implementing the Dublin Declaration and welcomed the “collective political commitment demonstrated at the Forum.” She highlighted ICN initiatives to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals and Universal Health Coverage – see the November 21, 2017 media release from ICN for details.

Posted by Nora Whyte – December 11, 2017.

Nursing Now! Campaign to Launch in 2018

In my June 28 post on the 2017 International Council of Nurses Congress, I referred to a presentation on the Triple Impact Report of the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health.  During the Congress, Lord Nigel Crisp and Dr. Frances Hughes offered an exciting preview of a global campaign arising from the report’s recommendations.

The Nursing Now! Campaign is being developed in the coming months – it will be interesting to follow as plans take shape for key strategies and partnerships. As noted in an August Update, the campaign’s goal is “to raise the status and profile of nursing globally so that it can make an ever greater contribution to health and well-being.” Details of proposed objectives and organizational partners are found in the August Update issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health. The campaign’s intent is to increase the capacity of nursing to influence policy and to focus on nurse leadership at local, national and global levels.

Stay tuned for updates in advance of the formal launch scheduled for early in 2018.

ICN 2017 Congress Report by Nora Whyte

What a pleasure it was to be among 8,200 nurses from 135 countries who participated in the International Council of Nurses 2017 Congress in Barcelona in May! Hosted by the Spanish General Council of Nursing, this congress with its timely theme – Nurses at the Forefront Transforming Care – lived up to all expectations with stimulating plenary speakers, concurrent sessions and highly engaged nurses from around the globe.

ICN Congress Welcome

ICN Congress Welcome

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) served as a guiding framework with emphasis on nurses as key to achieving the goals. Plenary presentations had a common theme of policy advocacy for health system change and sessions provided informative examples of national nursing associations contributing to positive change in their countries.

Plenary speakers included Dr. Linda Aiken and Dr. Mary Wakefield from the US, Dr. Julia Duncan-Cassell from Liberia and Lord Nigel Crisp from the UK. In her keynote on Safe Staffing to Transform Care, Linda Aiken presented highlights from her research in 30 countries to show how evidence-based staffing make a difference to patient outcomes. Each 10% decrease in the proportion of RNs in hospitals is associated with a 12% increase in risk of mortality. She noted that there is “plenty of evidence to convince governments to invest in nursing” but that safe staffing remains an issue.

Lord Nigel Crisp of the UK House of Lords and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health (APPG) spoke about the work of the APPG in developing its 2016 Triple Impact Report:

Increasing the number of nurses, and developing nursing so that nurses can achieve their potential, will also have a wider triple impact of improving health, promoting gender equality and supporting economic growth (APPG, p.3).

Student Volunteers at ICN Congress. Photo credit: ICN

Student Volunteers at ICN Congress. Photo credit: ICN

The presence of nursing students during the congress was impressive: Spanish students were active as volunteers and other students brought their perspectives to sessions where they asked great questions. It was exciting to hear about the inaugural meeting of the Global Association of Student and Novice Nurses held in conjunction with the congress.

Informal Networking Outside Barcelona International Conference Centre

Informal Networking Outside Barcelona International Conference Centre

On a personal level, it was particularly meaningful to meet nurse leaders from around the globe including some members of the ICN Board of Directors. There were messages of thanks to outgoing president Judith Shamian and words of welcome to the incoming Board of Directors and new president Annette Kennedy who brings great experience and enthusiasm to her new role. ICN presidents have a tradition of selecting a “watchword” to guide their term – Annette Kennedy announced her watchword Together as highlighted in this excerpt from her acceptance speech:

Together we can ensure that we have a voice at every committee and policy table related to health care. Together we can encourage investment in primary care, health promotion and disease prevention and together we can provide that care. Together we can convince the public and policy makers that investing in health is an investment in our people and our economy. Together we can seek better working conditions for all nurses. Together we can realise our collective potential to make the world a healthier place for everyone. (ICN Press Information, June 2, 2017).

Looking to the future, ICN’s Voice to Lead campaign launched for International Nurses Day this year, will continue as a dynamic resource as ICN strengthens its social media and furthers its work on the SDGs.

The entire congress experience – with opportunities for stimulating exchange of ideas and  meeting nurses from many countries – was worthwhile in every way. To cap it off, I enjoyed extra days exploring the beautiful city of Barcelona!

Evening view of Barcelona - May 2017

Evening view of Barcelona – May 2017


Community Health: Action for Change

banner0-1The International Collaboration for Community Health Nursing Research has announced the call for abstracts for its 7th International Conference. The themes are:

Innovation & new trends in community health
Community involvement – best practices
Community nurses – skills development; redefining roles for new
Health policy – challenges & impact
National & international collaboration & partnerships in community
Research for the future

The conference takes place in September 2017 and the abstract deadline is May 30.

It’s exciting to see that this event is being held in Johannesburg where I lived and worked for three years.

Nora Whyte

Health Systems Global: Vancouver Statement


The Fourth Global Symposium on Health Systems Research wrapped up on November 18, 2016 (see previous post below dated November 15).  It was interesting to follow some of the live coverage and social media commentary during the event. The organizers issued a statement at the conclusion of the Symposium to highlight key reflections on the deliberations and to outline proposed actions. The Vancouver Statement builds on achievements and changing contexts since the Third Global Symposium held in Cape Town in 2014. The changes include adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, increased attention to Universal Health Coverage and a greater recognition of the role of communities in shaping health policy.

For background on Health Systems Global and current activities, see the Health Systems Global Website.


Global symposium on health systems research


The fourth global symposium on health systems research is underway in Vancouver this week: November 14-18. There is live coverage and access to e-posters as well as other content throughout the week.

Participants are exploring the timely theme of ‘resilient and responsive health systems for a changing world’ as they meet in person and engage through social media.

Key points on the meaning of the theme are highlighted here: