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Dr Brundtland to launch a strategy to address crisis in nursing and midwifery services

The Fifty-Fourth World Health Assembly in May 2001 stated that nurses and midwives play a crucial and cost effective role in reducing excess mortality, morbidity and disability and in promoting healthy lifestyles. It called for WHO to assist countries in optimizing their contribution.

Many countries are reporting that nurses and midwives are leaving the health services and, as a result, an increasing number of patients are receiving inadequate care or no treatment at all. In an attempt to reverse the declining numbers of nurses and midwives, the World Health Organization (WHO) is launching the 'Strategic Directions for Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery Services'. Studies report several causes contributing to the decline in the number of nurses and midwives: low pay, hazardous working conditions, lack of career development, and lack of recognition of professional status and autonomy. These same factors can also contribute to a decline in new recruits to the two professions. "If the world's public health community does not correct this trend, the ability of many health systems to function will be seriously jeopardized " says Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO.

WHO’s new Strategic Directions target five main areas where urgent intervention is needed: human resources planning and capacity building, management of personnel, evidence-based practice, education and stewardship. A highly-concerted effort will be required from governments the world over to balance all five areas. Nine international partners, including the United Nations Population Fund, the International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the International Council of Nurses, the International Confederation of Midwives and the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Nursing and Midwifery, have already endorsed this new agenda.

Nursing and midwifery services are one of the main pillars of health care delivery. Failure to strengthen these services will seriously impair the quality of health care, access to services, well-being of nurses and midwives, and achievement of national and global health goals.

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For more information contact:

Fadéla Chaib
Telephone: +41 22 791 3228
Fax: +41 22 791 4181
E-mail: chaibf@who.int