Nursing and the impact of non-communicable diseases: Are you ready to make a difference?

May 26th, 2015 in Hot Topics

by Catherine Johnson, Calvary Mater Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia.  ISNCC Finance and Audit Committee Member, ISNCC Corporate and Philanthropic Committee Member, ISNCC Knowledge Development and Dissemination Committee Member, ISNCC Communications Committee Member, ISNCC Member Development Committee Member.

Globally non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases make the largest contribution to mortality; approximately 60% (35 million) of all deaths and have the greatest impact in low and middle income countries (28 million deaths) (1).  Most of these deaths are from preventable causes: tobacco use, unhealthy diets, alcohol consumption and physical inactivity. In 2010 the International Council of Nurses (ICN) identified that nurses are well positioned to lead NCD prevention, care and treatment. The ICN have developed a website ( that has a variety of tool and resources to help nurses lead wellness including prevention and health promotion tools, health assessments, policy and advocacy and also a section on nurses’ own health.

The International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) has strong leaders in the prevention and control of NCDs. Stella Bialous, current ISNCC president, with her colleague Linda Sarna have been advocates of tobacco cessation and the important role of nurses in helping smokers quit. They highlight tobacco cessation is incredibly important as it can lead to all four of the NCDs and have actively pursued capacity building of nurses in tobacco control. Of note, the ISNCC updated tobacco position statement was released in July 2014 and can be found at The ISNCC tobacco taskforce has been hosted in Eastern Europe (2012) and in China (2014) to increase nurses’ delivery of tobacco dependence treatment.

In 2014, at the World Cancer Leaders’ Summit, Sanchia Aranda, Past ISNCC president and current president of the Union for International Cancer Control, advocated for prevention strategies including higher tobacco taxes; implementation of prevention packages to improve diets and increase physical activity; development of effective workplace health promotion programs; and widespread vaccination programs, particularly in low-resource settings where routine screening and treatment services may not be available. Professor Aranda also spoke of the need for solutions that are accessible and affordable that deliver a return on investments for governments, particularly low and middle income countries where the burden of disease is greater and health services are not as well developed or resourced.

Nurses can play key roles in prevention and control of NCDs through key areas of policy, advocacy, research, education and clinical practice.

Do you feel prepared to contribute the prevention and control of NCDs?

Do you have the knowledge and skills to help patients, carers and their families modify their unhealthy behaviours to reduce their risk of developing one of the four key NCDs?

Will you be part of the solution?