Nurses can and must work to have a positive effect on the suffering and despair that springs from poor health care in impoverished areas around the world, says May Wykle, dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.
Wykle will speak at length to the circular linkage of poverty and health care in a keynote address at the Healthy People for a Healthy World conference in Bangkok, Thailand on June 26.
Wykle will discuss how the global poor are adversely affected by their limited access to health care and how better healthcare can lead to a reduction in poverty. The conference, which runs today through June 27, celebrates the 60th anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Because poverty and health status are inextricably linked, the most important action we can take to improve the health status of the poor in all countries is to advocate with our policymakers to bring about the systemic changes needed to allow us to do our work most effectively," Wykle says. "Health care providers can take the lead to bring about solutions if we, as nurses and physicians, are willing to step up to the role of advocate."
Wykle has traveled extensively around the world and has seen first-hand how poverty and health are intertwined. There are many hurdles in the way of achieving and maintaining good health among the poor populations, including limited local health care availability, lack of education regarding good health practices, and finding solutions that fit within the local culture, she says.
Nurses and other health care professionals around the world need to work with their government leaders by addressing their specific needs, asking for funding, and showing just how that money can make a difference.
"For those who are so burdened by the double bind of health problems and grinding poverty that getting through each day is a triumph of the spirit, a courageous health care provider may be their only voice for change," Wykle says.
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