“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
This blog was written by Rose Nakame, Registered Nurse & Immunisation Advocacy Champion
On 16th October, I flew in from Uganda and arrived in a very calm Berlin, Germany. I met with Vince Blaser, Director, Advocacy and Outreach, Vaccine Acceptance and Demand, Sabin Vaccine Institute and we quickly made plans to attend the Virchow Prize event. Here, we watched PEPFAR Ambassador and former founding director of Africa CDC, Ambassador Dr. John N. Nkengasong as he received the lifetime global health prize. In his speech, he stressed the importance of focusing on the 4Ps (population, pathogen, politics, and policy) when fighting a pandemic.
On 17th October, we joined over 1,000 attendees for the World Health Summit where I had the opportunity to meet with Howard Catton, CEO, ICN and Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies Programme. We discussed ways to engage nurses and midwives in pandemic and epidemic control as well as national and global health discourse.
During the World Health Summit, I listened to a number of panelists and I was shocked to realise that less than a handful of nurses and midwives had been invited to speak in these discussions. It seemed the definition of “health workers” had been greatly limited to those who wear a white coat or physicians despite the fact that nurses were often mentioned as playing a crucial role in the early detection and ending of the pandemic. This illustrates a saying that I have come across lately which is, “If you are not at the table, you are on the menu”. It is vital that we support nurses and midwives not only to attend global health events but also to contribute to shaping the discourse.
My participation in the World Health Summit provided great insights into many diverse areas. One example is the discussion I listened to about fighting misinformation. During this discussion, it was made clear that it is important to include indigenous knowledge and to openly engage in conversations even with those who do not share our school of thought to better fight mis- and dis-information.
Last but not least, I was invited to attend the Heroines of Health Gala. This event celebrates the achievements of women in global health and it is here that I was recognised, together with 16 other women, as a Heroine of Health 2022. At this event, I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Tedros, WHO’s Director General and the First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos and take part in the social change panel during which I advocated for the need to provide seats for rural nurses and midwives at the decision making tables since these are the ones who serve the poorest populations, vital in controlling pandemics and epidemics, attaining health equity and universal health coverage.