New leadership role at WHO to provide impetus for nursing and midwifery initiatives in the Region


WHO Chief Nursing Officer, Ms Elizabeth Iro and Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe, Dr Hans Kluge

“Nurses are central to achieving universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals.” These were the words of WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus when he announced in October 2017 the appointment of Cook Islands’ Minister of Health Ms Elizabeth Iro as WHO Chief Nursing Officer.

The appointment marks the first nomination of a nurse as part of WHO’s executive team. It clearly indicates the Organization’s recognition of the pivotal role of nurses and midwives not only in improving health and well-being but also in transforming health policies.

Recognizing the importance of this new role within WHO, Dr Hans Kluge, Director of the Division of Health Systems and Public Health at WHO/Europe, met with Ms Iro on 31 October 2017. They discussed strategies for moving towards a sustainable health workforce globally and in the WHO European Region as well as Ms Iro’s participation in the next European Meeting of Government Chief Nursing and Midwifery Officers, WHO Collaborating Centres and the European Forum of National Nursing and Midwifery Associations. The biennial event is set to take place in November 2018 in Vienna, Austria. It will mark the 30th anniversary of the first Ministerial Conference on Nursing in Europe and the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on Nursing in Support of the European Targets for Health for All.

The European Region faces serious shortages of well qualified nurses and midwives. WHO has been consistently advocating for nurses and midwives as a vital resource for improving people’s health and well-being and reducing health inequalities.