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Nurses and Midwives are Strengthening Health Systems through Storytelling

As health policy leaders around the world grapple with declining routine immunization rates and COVID-19 vaccine rollout inequities, the insights, stories and experiences of health workers leading discussions with their communities about immunization and delivering vaccines are essential to inform better policies and investments.

That is why, ahead of the 75th World Health Assembly, the Nursing Now Immunisation Advocacy Champions hosted a session during the workshop Elevating the Voices of Nurses and Midwives, organized by Nursing Now Challenge, Sabin’s Immunization Advocates program and World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH).

Nurses and midwives from Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda and the United States talked about their work to encourage vaccination in their communities.

Mohamed Modber – a community health nurse, researcher and Immunisation Advocacy Champion in Sudan – led the conversation, which was co-moderated by Sabin’s Vaccine Acceptance and Demand Advocacy and Outreach Director Vince Blaser and kicked off by Catherine Kane, technical officer for health workforce at the World Health Organization. 

Kane addressed the importance of elevating the voices of health workers for vaccine equity and acceptance. 

“What we actually need is a public health workforce that is supported, protected and paid in order to ensure that we are improving public health, gaining community confidence and ensuring that we are making more resilient populations throughout the cycle,” Kane said. She also spoke about the WHO Global Health Care and Worker Compact, which outlines technical guidance for how governments can protect health and care workers. 

REMI East Africa executive director and Immunisation Advocacy Champion Rose Nakame described how storytelling models have led to better COVID-19 management in rural communities. 

“We generally apply storytelling as a thermometer for the health system, the rural health system mainly, and we use the themes to then tell us how to strengthen the health system and how to respond,” she explained. 

Through storytelling initiatives, Nakame has facilitated discussions with health workers and made direct connections to policy efforts and conversations in Uganda and other geographies in East Africa. “We carry the stories to the public to generate discourse and build trust, and we identify emerging themes and galvanize them for advocacy.”

Amy Staley, staff nurse at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and Immunisation Advocacy Champion, shared her efforts in aiding her local community in staying informed about COVID-19 and vaccinations. 

“Oftentimes underserved communities are silenced of their needs, and together, the seven of us [Immunisation Advocacy Champions] decided that we were going to make 2022 the year that the silence speaks. I knew that I wanted to make a difference for these underserved communities,” Staley stated. 

Health workers are champions in supporting and facilitating immunization efforts within their communities. Ensuring they are provided with proper support, protection and resources is critical. Nurses, midwives and health workers are the voices of their communities and are at the center of understanding and communicating the issues that contribute to vaccine acceptance and equity. 

Read about the Nursing Now Challenge and Sabin Vaccine Institute’s Immunization Advocates program Storytelling Challenge for nurses and midwives. Explore the Immunization Advocates’ resource hub for health workers.