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Nursing's critical role in achieving Universal Health Coverage, this World Health Day

Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty CBE 7 Apr 2021 Prof Anne Marie Rafferty RCN President Safe staffing

To mark World Health Day, we have published a new report: ‘Leaving no one behind: The role of the nursing profession in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the UK’.

Today is World Health Day, an opportunity to consider how good health and wellbeing can be shared by all. The theme this year is about building a fairer, healthier world for everyone. 

Nursing has a critical role to play in achieving Universal Health Coverage. To mark World Health Day, we have published a new report: ‘Leaving no one behind: The role of the nursing profession in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in the UK’.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cover a broad range of issues aimed at building a better and more sustainable future for all people, in every country of the world, by 2030. With just 10 years left until the deadline and over five years since UN member states, including the UK, adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs, our report makes the case for the vital role nursing and midwifery plays in driving progress in the UK. 

When applied together, the SDGs address the broad range of factors that shape our health – the social determinants of health. Whilst there has been much progress, there are significant gaps in implementation. The SDGs commit to leaving no one behind - but many communities continue to miss out.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, many health inequalities have been exacerbated in the UK and across the world. The pandemic has exposed existing cracks in health and care systems. And for us to achieve the SDGs within the decade, concerted and sustained action is needed by governments, policymakers, and individuals - all of us – to ensure no one is left behind. 

Our report makes the case that the SDGs should guide and inform our work to rebuild and recover from COVID-19 and that nursing has an essential contribution and critical role to play in driving progress towards the SDGs, with nurses being powerful agents for change. We’ve included 12 case studies of nurses and midwives who are leading and driving innovative work to address issues such as poverty, exclusion, inequality and climate change to help us tell this story. 

As we look to recoup from the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDGs are more important than ever. As the appropriate global framework to guide our efforts to deliver a fairer, more sustainable and inclusive world that serves every single person.

They’re also an incredibly important tool for nurses and midwives. They are vital for showcasing our contribution globally, and we must use all our influencing opportunities, partnerships and alliances – including the upcoming World Health Assembly which will be considering the new global strategy on nursing and midwifery – to amplify the voice of nursing and influence policy makers to invest as never before in the nursing workforce. 

The SDGs can be used to lobby for the changes we want and need to see, and for us to demonstrate the breadth of our contribution and the diversity of our work. And we can do so much more to celebrate the role that nurses play in finding solutions to the problems we face today.

Read the report here.

Professor Anne Marie Rafferty

Professor Dame Anne Marie Rafferty CBE

RCN President


Anne Marie is Professor of Nursing Policy at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care at King’s College London. 
Professor Rafferty has been involved in the RCN since she was a student in 1977. She has previously acted as an RCN representative on the Health Quality Improvement Partnership and currently acts as a member of the Safe Staffing Expert Reference Group. She was named one of the 70 most influential nurses in 70 years of the NHS.

Page last updated - 08/09/2021