Nurses and midwives play a key role in empowering people and engaging patients

As patients navigate the health system, nurses and midwives promote health literacy, plan care in collaboration with patients, assist in clinical decision-making and encourage and teach patients to use self-management and self-monitoring systems. Nurses and midwives play the added, invaluable role of accompanying and engaging vulnerable and marginalized populations, thus helping to address inequality in access to care and care outcomes.

Sweden (case study 39)

Overview: Health communication supported by information and communication technology (ICT) is increasingly used to promote health and enable people to make healthy choices. Such tools, should, however, be user friendly and respond better to the needs, preferences and contexts of users. District nurses working in health promotion and disease prevention in primary health care collaborated with researchers in creating an interactive Internet-based health portal, "Virtual Hälsotorg" (Health Plaza). The Virtual Hälsotorg was designed by a multidisciplinary research group of professionals and patients, headed by a district nurse and a nurse research student. To ensure that Virtual Hälsotorg responded to the actual needs of the local people and to policy and programmes, other health care professionals, ICT specialists, high-school students, pensioners, immigrants and local politicians were used to monitor and evaluate each prototype. 

Outcomes: The collaborative design resulted in a health portal that was needs-based, accessible, user-friendly and well aligned with the primary health care mission. District nurses extended health promotion to hard-to-reach groups such as young people and immigrants, which are important targets for primary prevention. District nurses further applied the e-health skills and knowledge they had acquired to establish Internet schools for patients with diabetes, hypertension or asthma. The pilot study showed that well-designed ICT tools can improve health literacy.

Health 2020 goal: Creating resilient communities and supportive environments

Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (case study 46)

Overview: Recognizing that grieving families need dedicated support, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Perinatal Institute created a "bereavement support" post for a midwife. The bereavement service provides confidential support for couples who are grieving for the loss of an infant due to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death or the loss of a child. The mandate was extended to childbearing women grieving for the loss of a loved one and to parents who have received bad news about the well-being of their infant before or after birth.

Outcomes: Evaluation of the service demonstrates that the bereavement support midwife has been indispensable for bereaved parents. The safety and satisfaction of women giving birth were increased by easy access to the post holder, who was a point of contact with other members of the maternity team. The post raised awareness about the needs of grieving women locally, regionally and nationally.

Health 2020 goal: Strengthening people-centred health systems