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Poorer People Live
Shorter Lives and are Sick
Nurses take aim at poverty and the link with poor health
Geneva, Switzerland, 12 May 2004 ― On the occasion of International Nurses Day, nurses worldwide are drawing attention to the links between poverty and health and calling for multi-sectoral action to reduce poverty and improve health. Poverty is a complex and pervasive problem throughout the world. More than half of the developing and transitioning world lives in poverty, with about 1.2 billion people or 23 percent of the world’s population living on US$1 or less per day. An additional 1.6 billion people make do with between US$1 to $2 per day.1
In most countries poverty has a female face, as about 70 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty are female. In many countries, poverty of women has risen significantly over that of men over the last two decades. Women are twice as likely as men to be illiterate and significantly more likely to suffer from poverty-related health conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia and protein-energy malnutrition.2
“Poverty is the greatest misery we face today. As nurses, everyday we encounter people that are unable to meet their basic needs due to poverty and we see how this makes them more susceptible to disease and early death”, stated Christine Hancock, President of the International Council of Nurses. “The particular cruelty of poverty is its vicious circle, whereby people do not have access to health, education and other means to increase their income and to improve their health status. Yet without good health, a person’s potential to escape from poverty is severely weakened.”
Nurses are calling for investment in education, health care and sound social policy to improve health outcomes. In their campaign to reduce poverty and its negative impact on health, they will be advocating for equity of access to health services, fair labour standards, safe work places and equal rights for women.
As the most trusted of health professions, nurses can work effectively with and on behalf of poor people to ensure that their voices are heard, that they are included in decisions concerning them, and that the inequalities of access, employment, services, gender, ethnicity and race are addressed.
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