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Howard Catton: Nurses must lead from the front by getting the flu jab

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 650,000 deaths a year are attributable to flu. By having the flu vaccination, nurses can set an example to patients and help them make the right health choices, says International Council of Nurses nursing director Howard Catton

The World Health Organization estimates that up to 650,000 deaths a year are attributable to flu. By having the flu vaccination, nurses can set an example to patients and help them make the right health choices, says International Council of Nurses nursing director Howard Catton


Picture: Tim George

Health systems around the world are feeling the strain of increasing demand from an ageing population and chronic and infectious diseases.

Some, like the NHS, are starting to buckle. So why are highly effective and affordable preventive measures still not being more widely implemented?

Flu vaccinations are a case in point. The World Health Organization estimates that three to five million cases of severe illness and up to 650,000 deaths are attributable to flu every year, and people with non-communicable diseases or long-term conditions are at the highest risk of prolonged illness, loss of function and increased mortality.

The health benefits of vaccination are up there with stopping smoking and statins, and have the potential to save health systems billions.

Making the right choices

Nurses must continue to lead from the front and get their annual flu vaccination. They are hugely influential in helping patients make the right health choices, but that requires having enough nurses with the time to educate.

It is shocking that among the 35 countries in the OECD policy forum only around 3% of health budgets are spent on public health and prevention.

Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently set up a global group to advocate for ‘health taxes’ on products such as sugary drinks.

Perhaps it’s time for health workers to make the case for the proceeds of any new taxes to be earmarked specifically for supporting and expanding the health workforce. Nurses, not sugary drinks, are the real thing after all.


Howard Catton is director, nursing and health policy, International Council of Nurses

 

 

 

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