At the ICN Congress in Melbourne, with the support of funding from our corporate partner Pfizer, over 1000 nurses took part in a survey on non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The results showed some worrying signs. In particular, the survey demonstrated that nurses have a long way to go in terms of Body Mass Index (BMI). Twenty-nine percent of nurses who responded were overweight (BMI between 25–29.9) and 23% were obese (BMI of 30 or greater). This compares to a similar survey of nurses in 2012, which found 37% overweight and 21% obese.
I would like to take the opportunity of my first year as ICN President to make a call to nurses everywhere to improve your own health in order to become a better role model, educator, and advocate of healthy lifestyles. Your example will have an impact on yourself, your friends and family, your patients and your community.
I encourage you to make the commitment today to take regular exercise (at least the equivalent to a vigorous 30-minute walk three times a week); maintain an appropriate weight and a healthy Body Mass Index; eat at least five helpings of fresh fruit and vegetables daily; reduce salt intake; and switch to unsaturated fat. If we can make an impact on our own profession, then we are better positioned to make an impact on our families and society as a whole.
We know that nurses desire to make an impact. In May 2011, ICN and Pfizer collaborated on a multinational survey of nurses which showed that nearly all nurses (95%) want to use their nursing skills with individuals and communities to increase awareness of risk factors and support changes in lifestyle to prevent NCDs. The majority of nurses believed that they could have the greatest impact in helping reduce the incidence of NCDs within their own life and their immediate sphere of influence – their family and workplace.
In 2010, upon release of its International Nurses Day toolkit focused on NCDs, ICN asked each of the world's nurses to make a personal commitment to eat healthily, exercise appropriately, drink sensibly and avoid the use of tobacco. I reiterate this call to action.
Many nurses are already setting an example. The American Nurses Association has launched the HealthyNurse™ programme, accessible to all registered nurses in the USA. Their HealthyNurse website includes a tool kit, tips and resources on how to improve your health.
The Democratic Nursing Organization of South Africa (DENOSA), ICN and the Oxford Health introduced a workplace programme to address the problems of chronic disease, including excess weight and smoking among nurses. The programme included improved organisational policies that incorporated the principles of caring for the carers and focused on health and wellness; provision of healthy food options at lunchtime; exercise classes and various support clubs; health screening; weight management and provision of nicotine patches to help participants stop smoking. Knowledge, skills and expertise were shared, as were stories about successes and barriers. The programme was successful in informing, educating and supporting nurses to improve their own health. The results to date show that a significant number of nurses have lost weight, improved the management of their own chronic disease, availed themselves of health screening, and quit smoking.
Now it is your turn! Many resources are available on the Grow Your Wellness website, developed by ICN and Pfizer, to help you improve your health and work with different patient groups. Let us make this impact together. This is about our own well being and the health of our societies. This is a change we must embrace.