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AARP CEO Bill Novelli Delivers Remarks on Creation of Center to Champion Nursing

Good morning everyone. We’re very pleased to be partnering with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to launch a new Center to Champion Nursing in America.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a powerful force for health and health care in America. When the book on America’s triumph over tobacco disease is finally written, the Foundation will be in every chapter. And now Risa is guiding the Foundation into the critical area of childhood obesity, which is going to create enormous improvements in our nation’s health.

The Foundation and AARP share a common goal of better health for all people in this country. And, today we are announcing that we will combine our resources—as we have in other initiatives—to work together toward that goal.

As Risa observed—and as everybody here knows—our health care system is in drastic need of an overhaul. There is a convergence of three dangerous trends: rising costs, increasing numbers of Americans without insurance coverage and poor quality of health care delivery. We need fundamental reform.

Part of our problem is a shortage of nurses. And, it’s only going to get worse if we don’t do something about it now. Nurses are on the front lines of health care in America; and they are the backbone of our health care system.

This shortfall affects the ability of today’s nurses to deliver effective and compassionate care. And as the need for nurses increases—as it will, with our aging population —the supply of nurses will not be there to meet that demand.

All Americans should have access to affordable, quality health care. And, without adequate numbers of well-trained nursing professionals, Americans will not have the health care they need.

Nurses are critical to ensuring that patients get the best care possible—not just in hospitals, but in the delivery of home health care, in assisted-living facilities and in nursing homes. They account for more than half of all health care providers. The research is clear: having more nurses means better quality care and improved health for patients.

So the nursing shortage is a major problem that must be addressed. With the announcement of the Center, we are going to do our part to solve this problem.

We will work with and engage all the stakeholders, starting with nurses and their leadership, and also including other health care providers, policy makers, business and consumers. We intend to educate and inform people about these issues and to advocate for change.

We especially have to get health consumers –the public -- engaged in this. They are the ones most affected by the shortage of qualified, trained nurses. As people get older, they tend to use more health care. So this is having a tremendous impact on our over 39 million members, all of whom are 50 or older.

In addition, many of our members are nurses. I talk to them all the time. They are proud of the important work they do. And many of them want to keep doing it, just as many other older workers want to keep active and contributing. In our Best Employers for Workers Over 50 program, many of the winners are health care organizations. I see how much they value their older nurses, and we want to involve all of these organizations and employees in this endeavor.

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