A NURSE’S PLEA ON INTERNATIONAL NURSES DAY: “Health is an investment, not a cost”

This is a guest post from Lloyd (Jose) Nunag – a Research Team Leader and registered Nurse.

As an active young citizen, and a Filipino nurse who is passionate about advocating for universal health coverage and health systems strengthening – I believe it is vital for the UK to have a concrete plan to support healthcare globally.

To mark International Nurses Day on Thursday 12th May, in partnership with Action for Global Health as part of their Healthy Futures campaign, I’m taking a look at why it’s so important that health is reframed as an investment, not a cost.

Since my International Nurses Day article with Action for Global Health a year ago, it seems that lessons have still not been learned. 176,000 COVID-19 deaths later, here we are again marking International Nurses Day and trying to get decision-makers’ attention to hopefully invest more and better in Global Public Health.  

In the last year, we have lost more loved ones and colleagues, continued to experience more stress at work, have suffered from a global economic crisis, and have seen increased gender inequality. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have learned the hard way that nothing is more important than good health and access to essential healthcare.

“Public health is not prioritised nor optimised which is ironic especially in this pandemic era.” 

As we mourn the loss of our loved ones and observe (and experience) the humanitarian crises happening in the world (including in Ukraine which has shaken the entire world in the last few weeks), the Global Public Health community feels deep despair. Not just for the tragic loss of so many lives, but for where the global health funding stands today.

Advocating for Healthy Futures

Our healthy futures and lives depend on us using our collective voices to affect change and help all people around the world. We all have a responsibility to take our leaders into account, protect our neighbours, and stand together against the systems, the individuals and the platforms that seek to restrict healthcare and dehumanise us.  

Those of us working in healthcare and public health, we have assumed the position of advocates in an effort to improve health and wellbeing and achieve universal health coverage. How we as nurses and public health providers step forward at this time of world crisis is of critical importance if we are to do our part in improving the health and wellbeing of all people.

Reframing “health” as an investment 

Good health and wellbeing is a fundamental human right, a political choice – an investment and NOT A COST. Population health in a post-COVID world should be a priority. This is the moment we need to step into supporting more work in Global Public Health and not the other way around – cutting funding to essential and life-saving services.   

A healthy population is the foundation for security, resilience, preparedness for health threats and economic development. That’s why it’s so important to invest in health promotion, disease prevention, screening, and diagnosis as part of the pandemic response, recovery, future preparedness and beyond. 

“A healthy population is the foundation for security, resilience, preparedness for health threats and economic development.”

The UK as Global Health leaders

From tackling neglected tropical diseases to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and humanitarian crises, the UK’s unique and important support will transform the lives of millions of people. Therefore, it is crucial for the UK’s strategic plans, and notably the new International Development Strategy to reflect this.  

You don’t solve problems using the same tools that were used in creating them. If we want change, we need to rethink the way we support change and support those making the change.

One of the things this pandemic has shown us is that sound political and public health leadership is incredibly important. The decision-makers should listen to the interventions of a rich diversity of stakeholders – shaped from anywhere by anyone – including nurses and other healthcare workers. That means developing health systems that are truly inclusive, climate-conscious, integrated and equitable.

“The decision-makers should listen to the interventions of a rich diversity of stakeholders – shaped from anywhere by anyone.”

No one is safe until everyone is safe

Health systems strengthening is a process, not a one-time event. We have a lot of work to do, and a lot of really important and sometimes uncomfortable conversations about equitable healthcare are ahead of us.  

On the other side, however, is a profession that truly cares and fiercely advocates for patients and hopefully a more just society – the nurses. On this International Nurses Day, my message to the world is clear: Global Public Health deserves more especially during this pandemic era.  

I hope we can continue this dialogue as I feel it is important to our vision and other people’s survival. No one is safe until everyone is safe.  

What you can do to help  

By raising the profile of this issue and asking the UK government to set out a definitive plan for supporting healthcare globally, the UK will show its continued commitment to helping to create a healthier, safer world.

Take action today by sending this letter to Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Liz Truss and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid. Let’s ensure that the UK government works together to develop a concrete plan with set goals and funding commitments for the UK to support healthcare globally over the next 10 years.