Nurses and midwives are critical in the delivery of essential health services and are core in strengthening the health system. Acting both as individuals and as members and coordinators of inter-professional teams, nurses and midwives bring people-centered care closer to the communities where they are needed most, thereby helping improve health outcomes and the overall cost-effectiveness of services. They help to promote and maintain the health and wellness of an aging population within the community, in line with the concept of active aging. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, they can contribute to reductions in newborn, infant and maternal mortality in their role as skilled birth attendants and providers of neonatal care. They provide a wide range of services in hospital settings, from accident and emergency through to palliative care. Nurses and midwives have key and increasingly important roles to play in society’s efforts to tackle public health challenges and in delivering safe, high-quality, effective and efficient health services. These professions are vital to protecting and improving health by supporting people to manage their own health and ensuring access and continuity of care when patients need it. This dual approach is central to meeting changing health care needs. The Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage provide a challenge as well as an opportunity to continue to enhance the contribution of nursing and midwifery to their achievement. Currently, the disease burden is increasing and becoming more complex, including with regard to non-communicable, communicable, emerging and re-emerging diseases.