Advancing Nursing Leadership Through Global Health Policy

Monday, 30 October 2017: 1:35 PM

Jennifer Graber, EdD, MSN, BSN, APRN, CS, BC
School of Nursing, University of Delaware, Newark, DE, USA


Global health affects the health of Americans in the United States and those around the world. Since service is a part of Sigma Theta Tau International’s (STTI) mission in advancing global health, chapters have an opportunity to engage membership, increase sustainability, and develop future leaders. The purpose of this presentation is to illustrate the many opportunities for STTI chapters to engage and impact global health and policy using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework.

Global Health Policy

Global health lacks a universal definition. However, the central focus of global health has remained to improve health and achieve health equity worldwide for everyone. Many global health issues can directly or indirectly impact people’s health within the United States. Thus, governmental agencies are providing funding, human resources, and technical support to large organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations SDGs. Benton (2012) states that nurses are the key to providing quality healthcare, so all nurses must seize the opportunity to advance the nursing profession and the health of all people globally.

As a global nursing organization, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) developed a global policy and position statement regarding the STTI’s commitment to “advancing the health of the world’s people” (STTI, 2016, pg 1). STTI recommends that all nurses be involved in health policy at some level with each chapter providing support and scholarship to develop global leaders. This strong position statement inspired a local chapter to develop a Global Service Initiative policy. Over the years, the chapter’s members have been actively involved in global activities, which have been supported by the chapter and members. In an effort to streamline these activities and continue the mission of STTI, the chapter designed a policy and procedure for these initiatives under the Service and Outreach Committee. Providing opportunities to network and educate members and non-members about global health activities is an important aspect to improving global health and advancing healthcare policy. The local chapter’s global health initiative incorporates service, scholarship, research, and leadership.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Influencing through policy is an important aspect of the STTI Presidential Call to Action. Chapters can engage in policy initiatives and lead policy change in a variety of ways. The local chapter embraces the responsibility to engage and influence through policy by participating in activities that advance the SDGs. These goals began in 2016 after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were reviewed and reevaluated. The SDGs consists of seventeen goals that aim to end poverty and ensure prosperity for all while also protecting the planet (Lee, Kjaerulf, Turner, Cohen, Donnelly, Muggah, … MacGregor, 2016).

The original eight MDGs were the basis of the new seventeen SDGs. The United Nations has called on all countries to begin efforts to achieve the seventeen SDGs by 2030 (United Nations, 2015). Overall, the SDGs address social aspects, economic factors, the environment, peace, justice and effective institutions. These efforts all target vulnerable populations. The local chapter targeted five of the SDGs in an effort to advance nursing and influence global health on the local, regional and global level. These five goals are addressed by the chapter with their policy on the Global Service Initiative and their Global Ambassadors.

Chapter Impact on Global Health


The local chapter supported third graders who organized an event called “Bring Your Own Bag (BYOB) Delaware.” The BYOB event collected plastic bags in an effort to help make the world's largest plastic bag ball. In just a short few days, members collected over 700 plastic bags, which were added to the 4,000 bags from the school. This helped to increase the awareness of recycling. Over 50,000 plastic bags were assembled with the Lieutenant Governor and other chapter members attending the event in support of House Bill 202. This Bill passed and now large retailers will charge a 5-cent fee on plastic bags given to customers at checkout. The revenue provides reusable bags to customers and for education programs about how litter negatively impacts the environment. This is directly related to SDG 15 - protecting, restoring and promoting sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, and halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss.


The local chapter educates members by increasing the awareness of human trafficking in a variety of vays. Members provide financial support and volunteer hours to Meet Me at the Well (MMATW), a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing human trafficking issues. Green (2016) suggests that 75% of trafficked women saw a healthcare provider while in captivity and often passing through the ED. Yet, these victims are often invisible to the very people providing care. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (2017) states that human trafficking is “modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act; or, commercial sex” (para. 2). involving a person under 18 years of age. Since 2012, human trafficking has become the nation’s second fastest growing criminal activity, trailing only drug trafficking (Anderson, 2016). To increase awareness and financial support, human trafficking was discussed at the local chapter’s annual Membership Appreciation night and at an induction ceremony. To disseminate this information further, a full article was published in the chapter Newsletter. By bringing awareness to the chapter locally and regionally about human trafficking directly addresses SDG 3 and 5. SDG 3 discusses ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages while SDG 5 is about achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.


The affiliated University is well known for its competitive study abroad program and multiple service learning travel programs, which offer opportunities for chapter members to participate. One trip offers students the chance for a service learning project for the Cairns Base Hospital. About 25% of those admitted to this hospital are aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders with unique cultural nursing care requirements.

In the past, the local chapter and the School of Nursing joined forces to help support a Medical Mission to Honduras. The mission group was composed of 20 or more volunteers, fully licensed healthcare professionals committed to sharing their knowledge and skills as well as non-medical members that help with programs and other assignments. The mission targeted adults and children living in poverty without access to healthcare. Many adults and children would walk hours bare footed during the rainy season to access healthcare, so the chapter and school of nursing sponsored “The Flip Flop Project” with over 100 pairs of flip flops donated. Also, the mission reached remote areas only accessible by foot or mule. An average of 70 pediatric patients a day, from neonates to 21 yrs old, received medical and dental care.

The local chapter has continuously maintained the Global Ambassador program initiated by STTI. One member has been a Global Ambassador in Kenya for the past three years and collaborates with a local nurse in meeting the healthcare needs of the poor in Kitale, Kenya. As a result of this work, a nurse from Kenya, was inducted as an honorary STTI member at Biennium.

Most recently, the local chapter focused on a need to increase global health efforts, thus, creating the Global Service Initiative. This initiative is in line with the United Nations SDGs, the CDC’s Global Health Strategies, and the WHO. The mission of the Global Service Initiative is to expand the global impact of the chapter’s members by participating with global healthcare activities. This service initiative was designed to help improve healthcare locally and globally as well as to educate chapter members on the local relevance of having a global perspective. Also, there is a focus on increasing opportunities for members to learn about world health issues including the SDGs via membership appreciation night, tweeting from conferences, and newsletter articles. All of the global outreach efforts address SDG 4 and 6. SDG 4 discusses ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education while promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. SDG 16 discusses promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.


Every chapter can provide opportunities for engagement that will impact global health and policy. STTI chapter involvement can engage members, increase STTI sustainability, and advance nursing practice and policy through enhancing scholarship, leadership, and service. To improve global health, countries must collaborate, and STTI is poised to assist in achieving health and equality for everyone worldwide.