SDG 3 : Good Health and Well-being

What is the purpose of SDG 3?

The purpose of SDG 3 is to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. Since the creation of MDG (millenium development goals) in 2000, there have been big achievements in reducing child mortality and address diseases such as HIV, malaria or tuberculosis. Since the introduction of MDG, the number of people with HIV was decreased from 3.1 to 2 million and more than 6.2 million people were saved from malaria. Despite this great numbers, HIV is still the main cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa because the infected people do not have access to the therapy.

By 2030, there are severals goals to be achieved:

  • dicrease the maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100 000 births
  • end preventable deaths of newborns and children under age of 5
  • end the epidemics of communicable diseases
  • reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatments
  • upgrade the prevention and treatment of substance abuse
  • ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-case services
  • reduce the number of deaths from chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • support R&D of vaccines and medicines for communicable and non-communicable diseases

Reasons to work with SDG 3

In the times of when becoming diagnosed with a crucial disease or a virus can be vital, it is important to minimize those risks.

According to the World Health Organization, cancer disease is the second leading cause of death, causing 9.8 million deaths in 2018.

300 000 children aged 0-19 are diagnosed with cancer each year.

The statistics tell us, therefore, that addressing good health and well-being for all is completely crucial. But what would good “health” would even be defined as?

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Today, there is increasing evidence that many factors influence a person’s mental and physical health. Thus, financial risk protection and road safety are as much part of the good health goal as quality health services and affordable medicines.

An adequate health care infrastructure has many components: physical facilities; transportation and access to those facilities; availability of professional training for healthcare workers; and funding for research and implementation – just to name a few. 

Access to affordable resources can reduce maternal and child health deaths
Access to Good Health, Photo by Carina Storr Bangladesh 2016 (for pulitzercenter.org)

Goals within Goal 3

Health targets for SDG 3 include (but are not limited to) the following: 

  • Maternal and Child Health: reduce preventable deaths by increasing access to resources (e.g. vaccinations, education, facilities, fistula care)  
  • Epidemics: end AIDS, tuberculosis, Zika virus, cholera, hepatitis, and other communicable disease transmissions.
  • Non-communicable diseases: reduce deaths from cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, by promoting mental health and well-being.

The targets listed above are unavoidably linked to SDG 11: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. In particular, poorer countries which live through a conflict, suffer worse from maternal and child health indicators and epidemic outbreaks.

In both rich and poor countries, building the state’s capability for policy implementation is the main challenge, regardless of whether or not a conflict is present.

Trade-offs in Health Policy

Sustainability is at the heart of good health and well-being.

But healthcare being an area that touches so many other development goal areas, trade-offs are inevitable. For example, in the absence of equal access to services, a government’s good health policies may worsen gaps between the rich and the poor. A health intervention that increases inequality hardly sounds sustainable.

According to one analysis, SDG 3 narrowly focuses on a universal health coverage target, which can increase inequalities between those who can afford clinical services and those who cannot.

Accordingly, a sound long-term solution could be to enhance government collaboration with local, community stakeholders in reaching good health targets. In fact, partnerships in public health – between governments, NGOs, and healthcare workers – might be the most innovative and equitable way to distribute health benefits.


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