As is the tradition of ANS, this current issue of the journal contains articles that will quite likely prompt many interesting
discussions! The issue of human rights might seem to be primarily one that belongs in the realm of politics and policy, but as the authors of the articles in this issue of ANS so aptly demonstrate, human rights are invariably linked to health and well-being. Falk-Rafael and Betker cite a report that says it best: “Social justice is a matter of life and death.”
The connection goes even further to encompass the matter of health and illness. The article by Lee titled “Family Homelessness Viewed through the Lens of Health and Human Rights” makes this point very clear – their findings support the conclusion that being treated with dignity and respect is vital to health and well-being.
As nurses we face a fundamental challenge that requires honest reflection on what interests we serve not only in health care, but in the larger society. Florence Nightingale laid a foundation for western nursing as fundamentally serving the best interests of society. By tending to the needs of those who are ill, at risk for illness, vulnerable, or whose well-being is challenged, we also tend to the needs of society. But as nurses worldwide recognize, our social obligation goes beyond tending to individuals, to also taking bold steps to improve the social conditions under which people live and work and to shape public policy that creates those conditions.
In many countries around the world, the basic human needs and rights of the most vulnerable individuals have been undermined by the greed and desires of the few. This is an issue that as nurses we cannot ignore if we take our social duty seriously. It is time to step up to the challenge that faces our communities and nations, and to use our knowledge and our insights to advocate for social justice for all. Take a look at the complete Table of Contents of this current issue of ANS. This is the kind of evidence that nurses provide as a framework from which to build strong arguments that shape strong policies in favor of social justice. Indeed, it is a matter of life and death, of health and illness.