The Public Health Nursing Series is a 20-blog collection, written by William (Billy) Rosa, author of the recently released title, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership (June 2016), that sparks a dialogue about each and every nurse's role in advancing and creating the future of global health. With a focus on cultural considerations and the current status of healthcare in nations worldwide, nurses will learn how they are called to contribute to each of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an international initiative that seeks to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all over the next 15 years.This series makes the case that every nurse, regardless of title, position, or credential, is a public health leader.

Sustainable Development Goal #16 – Peace & Justice

Peace and peacemaking are inherent to the foundations of caring, dignity, health, well-being, and advocacy for human betterment that give meaning to the profession of nursing. We don’t often think of ourselves as peacemakers, but maybe its time to expand our self-definition to include the concept. We contribute to the healing of clients, be they individuals or communities, regardless of age, religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or disability. We do this work for those whose political views differ from ours and maybe even for those with criminal histories. If we were called to care for those involved in a violent altercation, we would be ethically bound to deliver equitable and quality care to both the aggressor and the victim. It is the very act of nursing - that of caring for others out of a commitment to service and covenant with society - that makes peace in the world. And with over 19 million nurses and midwives working in countries across the planet, what a formidable statement of peace we have the opportunity to proclaim!

My friend Jeanne Anselmo (2016) tells the story of caring for two patients affected by cancer: one, an elderly survivor of the Holocaust and, the other, the child of a Nazi soldier. She writes, “… together they opened my heart to a deeper calling and understanding of nursing: the gifts of compassion, going beyond all concepts of discrimination, views of right and wrong, touching our shared humanity, and cultivating true openhearted inclusiveness within ourselves” (p. 21). Through her nursing and the demonstration of equanimity in her provision of care, she became a representative of peace for her patients, their families, and the community she worked in. She did not espouse a mere theory or philosophy of peace, but became a living, breathing example of its healing power.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16 seeks to “promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies” everywhere by 2030 (United Nations Sustainable Development [UNSD], 2016). This SDG recognizes that peace and justice are just as necessary to the well-being of the global village as improving utilization of sustainable resources, the eradication of poverty, and the responsible modernization of industry and infrastructure. Peace and justice are the indicators that promote quality of life, feelings of safety, and ensure that disparities of all kinds are addressed in the quest for equality. Some of the targets of SDG #16 (UNSD, 2016) include:

  • Significantly reduce violence and associated death rates everywhere
  • Eradicate abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and violence against and torture of children
  • Promote the rule of law worldwide and ensure access to justice for all people
  • Substantially reduce illegal financial and arms flow and combat organized crime
  • Reduce corruption and bribery in all forms
  • Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels
  • Ensure decision-making is responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative at all levels
  • Promote the participation of developing countries in global governance
  • Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Each public health nurse has the fundamental capacity and responsibility to become a representative of peace and contribute to the goals listed above through their practice and ethic of caring.

A commitment to peace and justice can become a moral and ethical foundation for practice. It can be what drives nurses to create new knowledge, deliver exemplary care, and educate the next generation of peacemakers. Peace and justice are the rationales for client advocacy and the goals for policy changes. They are the most respectable of personal and professional aspirations. Lane (2016, p. 329) shows us the connection between compassion and peace when she writes:

Compassion is a kind of love; it joins your light with another’s. If you are ill, it joins you to a healer; if you are a healer, it joins you to the person you are healing; if you are making peace, it joins you to your enemy… The… [n]urse for peace who sees with compassion sees the enemy in a different way… Compassion breaks the cycle of violence that leads to more violence. There is nothing more ethical than practicing and embracing this way of being and becoming in the world.

And so it is.


Anselmo, J. (2016). Mindful and intentional: Embodying interbeing awareness in grassroots leadership. In W. Rosa (Ed.), Nurses as leaders: Evolutionary visions of leadership (pp. 17-31)New York, NY: Springer.

Lane, M.R. (2016). Authentic and creative: Walking the Caritas path to peace. In W. Rosa (Ed.), Nurses as leaders: Evolutionary visions of leadership (pp. 323-332). New York, NY: Springer.

United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSD). (2016). Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and   inclusive societies. Retrieved from

Quick Links

Part 1 -  Understanding the Nurse as a Public Health Leader

Part 19 - Sustainable Development Goal #17: Partnerships