By Dr. Barbara Sheer
After the tragic events at Parkland Florida, the high school students mobilized and became activists. They not only went to the Florida legislature but marched on Washington DC. March For Our Lives was a nationwide protest calling for an overhaul of our gun policies. Marches and events occurred over the country with high profile star support. National news covered the event. The granddaughter of Martin Luther King spoke as well as kids as young as 7. If high school students can mobilize the nation and make a difference, can nurses have a similar impact on health care?
Legislation in Washington not only affects the health of the individuals in our nation but also global health, which may have both direct and an indirect impact on us. Economic sanctions aimed at political punishment in a variety of countries have led to increased morbidity and mortality. Did you know that on becoming president, Trump signed a global gag rule to ban international aid funding linked to abortion-related family-planning services? This could impact up to 26 million women worldwide (Chen, 2118). The “Global Gag Rule” links major funding from USAID to strict rules on avoiding facilitation or promotion of abortion in any way. USAID is a leading contributor to global family planning programs. In addition to family planning, these services include financial support for maternal and child health services, nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, malaria programs. This policy change can have far reaching effects on water, sanitation and hygiene programs; and result in detrimental effects on prevention and treatment of health conditions. Trade agreements can affect the availability of key drugs for the treatment of many communicable and non-communicable diseases (Gupta, 2006).
As nurses our priority is to the patient. Being a global society, nurse need to focus on population health. We need to become activists, but how do we learn to do this? It is imperative that health policy and experiences be included in all nursing programs. Health policy is broader than just writing legislation or lobbying our legislators. Nurses must also understand the economic factors at work in policy development and the consequences of policy change. To do this, nurses must have the skills to assess the impact of policy change on health outcomes and organizational processes. DNP students, in particular, could carry out projects to critically analyze health policy results. In an article on medical students and health policy, Rajesh Gupta discussed the critical need for medical students to become policy scientists as well as good clinicians. Nursing students also must become health policy scientists and strive to improve health outcomes through health policy expertise in formulation and evaluation. Nurses need to think globally and act locally and we can learn from the high school students to raise public awareness of policies.
NCA can help you in revising health policy courses or curriculum. NCA consultants have experience in policy and global health and can help you to tailor nursing education programs to enhance current health policy courses and/or thread policy throughout the curriculum.
Chen, M (2018, March 6). Trump’s Abortion Gag Rule Is Hurting Reproductive Rights Around the Globe. Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/trumps-abortion-gag-rule-is-hurting-reproductive-rights-around-the-globe/
Gupta R (2006) Why Should Medical Students Care about Health Policy? PLoS Med 3(10): e199. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030199
Keywords: nursing education, curriculum, policy, global health