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Global Health Issues

CNA strives to remain up-to-date on health issues around the world and liaises with a number of international organizations to keep a pulse on new developments. The following areas are CNA’s  most active:

  • maternal, newborn and child health;
  • social justice and equity;
  • global nursing leadership;
  • female genital mutilation; and
  • disaster response.

Maternal, newborn and child health

CNA is a dynamic voice in promoting and advocating for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH). At its 2010 annual meeting, CNA members voted unanimously to advocate for the federal government, as the host of the G8 Summit, to endorse harmonization of international strategies for MNCH. CNA requested Canadian registered nurses (RN) to lobby parliamentarians and to develop and fund strategic, global and domestic policies that support MNCH.

CNA co-sponsored the Canadian launch of Adding It Up, a report published in 2009 by the Guttmacher Institute and the United Nations Population Fund that outlines the global benefits of funding maternal and newborn health and family planning. In addition, through its membership with the International Council of Nurses, CNA endorses Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, a World Health Organization (WHO) initiative, as well as the Canadian Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health .

Social justice and equity

CNA believes that social justice is the fair distribution of society’s benefits and responsibilities and their consequences. Social justice focuses on the relative position of one social group in relation to others in society, as well as on the root causes of disparities and what can be done to eliminate them.

CNA’s 2010 discussion paper Social Justice…A Means to an End, an End in Itself [PDF, 700.9 KB] outlines its conceptual thinking and direction in relation to social justice. The document provides a new version of the social justice gauge, which can serve as a guide for policy, program and product review and as a springboard for reflection and discussion.

CNA believes that one of the key components of a just society is equitable access and fair distribution of the conditions required for good health. The links between global health and equity are outlined in CNA’s 2009 position statement Global Health and Equity [PDF, 305.5 KB].

Global nursing leadership

Nursing Leadership [PDF, 403.9 KB], a CNA 2009 position statement, outlines the indispensable need for cultivating nurse leaders and the impact that nursing leadership has on patient, provider and system outcomes. From a global perspective, CNA promotes the importance of nursing leadership. For example, during the 2008 symposium Nursing Leadership: Do We Have a Global Social Responsibility? [PDF, 53.6 KB], Canadian and international panelists provided insight on international and cross-cultural challenges, education and collaboration in developing nursing leadership in global health.

Female genital mutilation

According to Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation: An Interagency Statement, published in 2008 by WHO, between 100 and 140 million girls and women have undergone some form of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). And these numbers are growing, with 3 million more girls at risk each year.

The 2010 UNICEF report The Dynamics of Social Change: Towards the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Five African Countries highlights how African communities are working to end FGM/C. CNA supports nurses around the world who are working to improve health policies, programming and services for girls and women who are at risk from or have undergone FGM/C.

FGM/C is painful and traumatic. It is usually carried out on girls from infancy to 15 years of age. There is no therapeutic benefit to FGM/C. In fact, it is a violation of the girls’ human rights and leads to serious health problems, including bleeding, problems urinating and complications in childbirth.

There is no single answer to ending this harmful practice and, as the UNICEF report rightly points out, changing centuries-old social norms is a complex process that takes time. Putting an end to FGM/C will take a multi-pronged approach involving community leadership and solidarity; legislative reform; and social networking by health-care practitioners and others.

Disaster response

Emergency planning requires integration at all levels of government, along with the principles of interprofessional collaboration, as stated in CNA’s 2007 position statement Emergency Preparedness and Response [PDF, 230.8 KB]. Federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments, as well as non-governmental organizations, are required to facilitate emergency response before emergencies occur.

CNA’s contribution to the national emergency response plan includes a working relationship with the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response. CNA offers expertise regarding emergency planning on issues such as Health Canada's small pox contingency plan, and provides the department with a national perspective on ethical nursing practice in a pandemic.

In international settings, at a certain point disaster response evolves into development assistance. CNA’s 2010 position statement Global Health Partnerships [PDF, 245.4 KB] states that “effective international development assistance can be attained only through truly collaborative partnerships.” To assist in international emergency response, CNA collaborates with other stakeholders to determine sustainable approaches and appropriate response to disasters, including the aftermath of both the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.