World Health Day

Today is the World Health Organization World Health Day1, with an emphasis this year on celebrating the work of nurses and midwives during this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife2. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate theme for the day of observance this year than to celebrate the vital and selfless work done by nurses and midwives in the midst of the current coronavirus pandemic.

Nurses and midwives account for almost 50% of the global health workforce. Even without the current stressors on healthcare personnel, the WHO estimates that the world needs an additional 9 million nurses and midwives to achieve universal health coverage3. Nowhere is the work of these professionals more vital than in resource-limited medical mission countries. In the small communities where many of these healthcare professionals live, they are always on call to see a child with malaria in the middle of the night, to care for women in labor; they are the lynchpins of all healthcare systems in medical mission lands.

The successful work of mission medicine depends on the commitment by so many people. The sending organizations who make this service possible, medical providers who volunteer to do this work as an expression of their faith, those who will never go on mission but who feel called to support this work with their financial assistance, priests and religious who leave their homes to commit their lives to mission work including the running of healthcare systems, and today in a special way to honor the healthcare personnel, particularly nurses and midwives, for their commitment to the health of those in their communities. We all tend to think of nurses when we are ill. Today would be a good time to also thank nurses and midwives for when we are healthy; for illnesses we never had because of their work.

Dr. Tim Cavanagh

1. World Health Organization World Health Day

https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/world-health-day/world-health-day-2020

2. World Health Organization International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/year-of-the-nurse-and-the-midwife-2020

3. World Health Organization 2020 International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife

https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/year-of-the-nurse-and-the-midwife-2020/get-involved/campaign-materials

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