UCSF School of Nursing at the International Council of Nurses 25th Quadrennial Congress
June 2013
David Vlahov

Having spent the last few days talking with nurse leaders from around the globe, I’ve come away inspired from the International Council of Nurses (ICN) 25th Quadrennial Congress in Melbourne, Australia.

This congress is a global platform for the dissemination of nursing knowledge and leadership across specialties, cultures and countries. This year’s theme was equity and access to health care. Consequently, all the presentations – which addressed major public health problems such as HIV, tuberculosis, disasters and maternal-child care – came through the lens of the social determinants of health, including women’s rights, education and poverty.

On maternal-child care, many participants referenced the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Among other things, those goals make improving maternal, infant and child outcomes an important global priority. To that end, we exchanged new information and accumulated experience, while renewing our dedication to advance practice and policy. This month’s Science of Caring conveys some of the knowledge we’ve accumulated at UCSF to improve maternal and child health care here and abroad.

Dean David Vlahov at the WHO Collaborative meeting in Melbourne, Australia

A highlight of the ICN congress was the Florence Nightingale International Foundation’s award luncheon. This year the foundation recognized the Girl Child Education Fund, which identifies and supports the primary and secondary schooling of girls under the age of 18 in developing countries whose nurse parent or parents have died. The fund pays for fees, uniforms, shoes and books – and works in partnership with member national nurses associations to ensure that the money goes directly to education costs. Every girl in the program is paired with a nurse volunteer to monitor her progress at school and at home.

This fund really is a testament of appreciation to the nurses who served their communities. Addressing the determinants of health, education and social support goes a long way toward creating healthy individuals and communities. Those with an education early in life have lower maternal deaths, lower infant mortality, lower rates of HIV, greater participation in the workforce – with higher wages – and a greater chance their own children will be educated. The Girl Child Education Fund is a model program in need of our support – and support is easy to provide. Simply click this link.

Other highlights from this year’s congress were reports from the Japanese Nursing Association about the lessons learned from the nursing response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which led to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and radiation exposure. Hiroko Minami – president of the University of Kochi, past president of the ICN and a UCSF School of Nursing alumna – announced the launch of a new PhD program in disaster nursing, which she directs. With their experience and accumulated expertise, Dr. Minami and her colleagues will undoubtedly become the global resource center for preparing advanced practice nurses and researchers in disaster preparedness and response.

Finally, the global network of WHO collaborating centres in nursing met and provided reports on their activities from countries that included Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Japan, Korea, Portugal, South Africa and the US. Part of our report from the UCSF School of Nursing WHO collaborating centre included a description of our close interprofessional linkage with UCSF Global Health Sciences. We believe this important collaboration dramatically enriches our global efforts. We also described how we developed and delivered free massive open online courses (MOOCs) on Coursera, where in our first two offerings, we engaged 80,000 students from 190 countries. We continue to be encouraged that such an approach is one important way to disseminate and democratize education.

Of course, much more went on at the ICN congress, but more than anything I was struck – not for the first time – by the substantive and sustained contribution our profession makes to creating a healthier and better world. I couldn’t be more proud.


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