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 Goals #’s 14 & 15 – Life Below Water & Life on Land

Merriam-Webster Dictionary (n.d.) defines biodiversity as the “biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals.” Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) #’s 14 and 15 address the health and well-being of the planet in regard to the biodiversity of both life below water and life on land, and the vitality of international ecosystems. SDG # 14 seeks to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources” (United Nations Sustainable sDevelopment [UNSD], 2016a), and SDG # 15 to “sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss” (UNSD, 2016b).

We are a little more than halfway through the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity (2011-2020), an initiative created to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity worldwide (Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD], n.d.). The overarching vision is a world where humanity lives more harmoniously with nature and where individuals and governments take care to protect the ecosystems and the variety of life on the planet (CBD, n.d.). The five strategic goals of the Decade on Biodiversity include:

  • Goal A: Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society
  • Goal B: Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use
  • Goal C: Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity
  • Goal D: Enchance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Goal E: Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building

More specific to the SDGs, some of the targets of SDG # 14 by 2030 (UNSD, 2016a) include a commitment to:

  • Prevent and reduce marine pollution
  • Manage and protect marine and coastal ecosystems, strengthen their resilience, and take action to restore them
  • Minimize and address impacts of ocean acidification
  • Regulate harvesting and end overfishing
  • Increase scientific knowledge, develop research capacity and transfer marine technology
  • Implement international law to conserve and sustain ocean use.

Additionally, some of the SDG #15 targets (UNSD, 2016b) include:

  • Ensure conservation, restoration and sustainable use of inland freshwater ecosystems in keeping with international agreements
  • Halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and increase afforestation and reforestation globally
  • Combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world
  • Conserve mountain ecosystems
  • Urgently end poaching and trafficking of protected species

As public health nurses, we must be clear about how we can use our roles as leaders, educators, and advocates to protect the biodiversity of the world at large.

SDGs #14 and 15 highlight the links between health, human rights, and the need for global cooperation in order that all people across the planet are considered and cared for. Kent (2011, p. 103) wrote,

Health is not only a series of separate national issues; it is also a global issue. The globalization process has accelerated the intensity and diversity of ways in which actions in one part of the globe can affect health conditions in other parts. Even if there were no such linkages, health everywhere should be a matter of global concern in moral terms. The fact that life is nasty, brutish, and short in many places should trouble all of us.

As public health nurses, we need to consider the health and well-being of the 35 million people who depend on Lake Victoria in Uganda for survival as it is continually debilitated by overfishing, pollution, and sewage (Ryan, 2015).  We need to think about Indonesia, a country that lost 15 million acres of forest between 2000-2012, and now has the highest deforestation rate in the world due to the greed and lumber needs of developers (Landen, 2014). Most importantly, we need to get that this isn’t Uganda or Indonesia’s problem; it is ours.

Public health nurses need to include the initiatives and targets of SDG #’s 14 and 15 in their community health education. The populations we serve have the right to understand how the businesses and practices they support and the silence they keep impacts billions of people worldwide. The quality of life under water and on land doesn’t just influence our survival… it determines it.


Kent, G. (2011). Global plans of action for health. In E. Beracochea, C. Weinstein, & D.P. Evans (Eds.), Rights-based approaches to public health (pp. 103-115). New York, NY:   Springer.

Landen, X. (2014). Indonesia reaches highest deforestation rate in the world. Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (n.d.). Biodiversity. Retrieved from

Ryan, R. (2015, April 2). Africa’s biggest lake is on the verge of dying. Retrieved from

United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSD). (2016a). Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources. Retrieved from

United Nations Sustainable Development (UNSD). (2016b). Goal 15: Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss. 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, was recently published by Springer Publishing 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 18 - Sustainable Development Goal #16: Peace and Justice