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Role of nurses in health care largely ignored

04:01 AM February 04, 2020

With respect to the article “A culture of health” (1/30/20), Peter Wallace pointed out well the role of doctors in the landmark Universal Health Care (UHC) law.

Nevertheless, UHC will not be attainable without nurses. Until now, policy approaches to comprehensive health care have traditionally neglected the role of nurses. This oversight misses two significant points:

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First, our nurses are the single largest contingent of the health workforce in the Philippines. They account for a substantial percentage of the contacts between health care providers and patients. But Filipino nurses offer more than strength in numbers. They also have the mindset and training to align with what is needed to achieve UHC. To give a sense of why investing in a stronger nursing workforce is essential to reaching universal health coverage, the 2019 WHO-UNDP data show that noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—

cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and the like—account for 68 percent of all deaths in the Philippines. Moreover, the economic cost of NCDs to the national economy is P756 billion per year, representing almost 5 percent of our annual gross domestic product. In reality, NCDs rob people of their health, wealth, and well-being. Which brings us to the second point:

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Our nurses should be at the center of managing NCDs within the framework of the Philippines’ universal health care. They usually have close ties to communities and a good understanding of local customs and culture. Nurses also have the status and the authority to change behaviors that cause such noncommunicable diseases. For example, they can identify patients at high risk of developing an NCD, provide advice, and help those with already diagnosed conditions to manage their disease, like working with them to exercise more and quit smoking, among others.

For too long, Filipino nurses have been under-resourced and underutilized. Taken for granted, our nurses remain invisible in the policy debate. It’s about time the national and local governments recognize that this massive asset—Filipino nurses—should

be developed so that they can have an even more significant impact on public health and society. Realizing the vast nursing dividend is the key to delivering on the promise of health for all.

JEROME BABATE
President
Beta Nu Delta Nursing Society
[email protected]

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