The Public Health Nursing Series is a 20-blog collection, written by William (Billy) Rosa, author of the forthcoming 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 #7 – Affordable & Clean Energy (Part 10)

Energy is the heartbeat of the modern industrialized world. Access or lack of access to energy determines how well we live, work, eat, deliver healthcare services, and communicate. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #7 seeks to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all” (United Nations Sustainable Development [UNSD], 2016). When 1 in 5 people lack access to electricity, 3 billion people still rely on wood, coal, charcoal, or animal waste as an energy source, and unethical energy practices are contributing toward 60% of the global greenhouse gas emissions that are causing climate change, something must be done (UNSD, 2016). And as with many other worldwide health challenges, the initiatives we partake in as public health nurses that further the goals of SDG #7 must be rooted in collaborative partnerships.

When it comes to environmental education, including the impact of energy sources on individual and population health, there is a critical knowledge gap in the preparation of healthcare professionals (Sattler, 2003). Nurses must learn to gather reliable information on sources of energy, identify how energy fits into political agendas, and work with communities to ensure reliable consistent access. According to UNSD (2016), targets for SDG #7 by 2030 include:

  • Ensure universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy sources
  • Substantially increase the usage of renewable energy
  • Facilitate international collaboration to improve access to clean energy research and technology
  • Expand the infrastructure and technology for supplying modern energy sources in developing countries

Data suggests that up to 3.3 million deaths per year are secondary to outdoor air pollution and as many as 3.5 million deaths per year are due to indoor smoke (World Health Organization [WHO], 2012). Much of this air pollution is resultant of ineffective and outdated energy technologies and sources. There are several health indicators that can help public health nurses assess progress toward SDG #7: percentage of households to affordable and clean energy access, amount of electricity produced with minimal pollutants, health facilities supplied with 24-hour water and electricity, the health burden attributable to pollution, and health equity and its relation to energy policy (WHO, 2012).

While the impacts of energy access at resource-constrained health facilities on patient outcomes are not well-known, lack of access to reliable electricity may negatively affect health worker recruitment and retention and delay emergency response time (WHO, 2014). The correlation between energy access and effective healthcare delivery is clear. Energy impacts cold-chain storage of blood, vaccines, and medicines, lighting, ability to sterilize equipment, insufficient communication options, inadequate water and hygiene resources, and also the number of healthcare workers attracted to living and working in more rural areas, where staff shortages are dire (WHO, 2014). In the future, more research needs to be completed to accurately illustrate the link between energy access and patient outcomes in order to drive policy improvements and influence large scale change.

At first glance, the everyday clinical nurse may not understand their role in reaching the targets of SDG # 7. But make no mistake, nurses play a critical role in all of the SDGs, including the creation of new knowledge through research design, navigating the implementation of systems improvements, and sharing public health implications at the tables where policy decisions are made (WHO, n.d.). By closing our own knowledge gap in regards to energy access and delivery, we can more adequately embrace our roles as educators, advocates, and public health nurse leaders.


Sattler, B. (2003). Environmental health education. In B. Sattler & J. Lipscomb (Eds.),             Environmental health and nursing practice (pp. 311-320).  New York, NY: Springer.

United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSD). (2016). Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all. Retrieved from

World Health Organization (WHO). (n.d.). Health workforce. Retrieved from   

World Health Organization (WHO). (2012, May 17-18). Health indicators of sustainable energy in the context of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Retrieved from

World Health Organization (WHO). (2014). Access to modern energy services for health facilities in resource-constrained settings: A review of status, significance, challenges and measurement. Retrieved from

More About the Author

William (Billy) Rosa, MS, RN, LMT, AHN-BC, AGPCNP-BC, CCRN-CMC, is currently Visiting Faculty, University of Rwanda and ICU Clinical Educator, Rwanda Military Hospital, Human Resources for Health Program in partnership with the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing. He currently has over 65 publications for refereed and non-refereed journals, newspapers, magazines, and national platform blogs and his book, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership, will be released by Springer in June 2016. Billy currently sits on the US Advisory Board for the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, and most recently received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' 2015 National Circle of Excellence Award and the Association for Nursing Professional Development's 2015 National Change Agent/Team Member Award.

 Quick Links

Part 1 -  Understanding the Nurse as a Public Health Leader

Part 11 - Sustainable Development Goal #8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth