Investing in Nursing and Midwifery Enterprise: Empowering Women and Strengthening Health Systems

Using the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI) Database, one of the most comprehensive resources on global innovation in the health marketplace, the authors identified programs utilizing nurses and midwives that provide inputs most commonly associated with empowerment, including:

  • Higher education and professional training
  • Employment and income generation
  • Participation and representation in social, professional, and political institutions

Where the majority of women's empowerment and health research has focused on health consumers, this paper focuses on health providers. The authors reviewed 94 health programs that provide opportunities for nurses and midwives, and discuss how these positions can empower women and health improvement goals. 46 of these programs targeted nurses, 25 were aimed at midwives, and 23 programs had empowerment opportunities for both nurses and midwives. These programs operate across 56 different countries and cover a range of health services, including those focusing on family planning & reproductive health; maternal, newborn and child health; HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; malaria; eye health; and non-communicable diseases. 

The vast majority of the programs captured were nonprofit ventures, with the primary funding source coming from international donors. Among programs reviewed, four approaches emerged as particularly promising for harmonizing health service delivery with empowerment: training programs, information and communications technology (ICT), networks and cooperatives, and franchises. 

The authors write "By documenting these approaches and their hallmarks for empowering female health workers, we hope to stimulate greater uptake of health innovations coupled with gender-empowerment opportunities globally."