By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief
There’s lots happening at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) meeting and I’ve logged more walking miles here in Melbourne in the last two days than I do in a week at home.
On Monday, the Council of National Representatives (CNR), the ICN’s governing body, announced election results. Judith Shamian, a well-known Canadian nursing leader, was elected the 27th president of the ICN. (For more information about Judith and other election results, read this press release.)
The CNR also agreed to address issues related to membership models and will move forward with a plan designed to support inclusiveness and membership growth in national associations. The plan also includes a tiered voting model that takes membership and percentage of membership into account. (The final vote will take place at the 2015 Congress).
New dues scheme: will RCN return? The CNR approved a new scheme for dues that should address the issue that led the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to withhold dues, resulting in its suspension from the ICN and its recent vote to withdraw from the ICN. According to ICN president Rosemary Bryant, Norway and Japan, who were also unhappy with their dues payments, were pleased with the new model. She is hopeful that the RCN will be as well. (A podcast interview with Bryant can be listened to at our podcast conversations page here.)
I spoke with David Benton, chief executive officer of the ICN, about the RCN’s two-year suspension. According to Benton, the ICN had no choice. “The RCN made a unilateral decision in 2010 with no attempt to negotiate another resolution,” he said. He added that as a long-time member and a fellow of the RCN, he’s personally saddened by its decision to withdraw from the ICN. He noted that only a small portion of RCN’s dues goes to ICN membership and that other countries with far less resources continue to support the ICN’s work. He, too, is hopeful that the changes recently approved by the CNR will prompt the RCN to reconsider its position.
Meanwhile, two new associations were admitted to the ICN: the Chinese Nurses Association and the Palestinian Nursing and Midwifery Association (read more here).
Invisible nurses at the WHO. Another issue, not new but perhaps one that is coming to a head, is the “eradication of nursing expertise at the WHO.” Nursing positions, especially leadership posts, have been disappearing from the WHO headquarters and regional offices and are now at an all-time low of 0.6% (down from 2.6% in 2000). (See AJN‘s July 2011 editorial and July 2012 report on this.) According to a document issued Monday, the CNR “calls upon the WHO Director General to urgently reinstate the vacant positions of WHO Chief Nursing Scientist at WHO headquarters and urges regional directors to retain and strengthen senior nursing advisor positions in their regions.”
I also attended several interesting sessions:
- Equity in health care. The opening plenary session, Equity and Access to Health Care, by Michel Kazatchkine, the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. He noted, “Ninety percent of the burden of infectious disease is in developing countries but they represent only 10%–12% of health expenditures per capita per year.” His message is to adopt a new health paradigm in which health care “ceases to be seen as a consequence of development but is seen as a necessary and priority investment for development and economic growth.” Indeed.
- Women advocating for women. Another plenary by Leslie Mancuso, a nurse and the chief executive officer of JPIEGO, an international nonprofit organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, focused on women advocating for women. She noted that, in many developing countries, women are more likely to seek health care from other women, and as a still predominantly female profession, nursing meets this need. This is important, she said, because “we know women and mothers are the key to healthy families. They represent 40% of the global workforce and a woman’s income is more likely to be spent on food, health care, and education.” She said that when a mother dies, the likelihood of her child under the age of two years dying is ten times greater. She urged attendees to push for leadership positions. “With nurses and midwives comprising 87% of the global workforce, we need to be in leadership positions.” Indeed again.
For additional information, go to the ICN Congress Web site or follow #ICN2013 on twitter; our friends at the Center for Health Media and Policy are also here and blogging about the meeting at the blog HealthCetera.