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Achieving SDG 3: where the world stands

April 14, 2021
Nana Ama Ayenor
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), good health is not merely the absence of disease; it is also a reflection of the social and mental well-being of people in a community. Hence reducing social tensions and ill health is a big part of the sustainable development goal 3 (good health and wellbeing)  which we must strive to achieve.  

A healthy and thriving population is key to reaching economic, environmental and social goals. At a time as this, enduring the hits of the pandemic, it is more so relevant to understand the progress of the world in achieving SDG 3. 

Grave inequalities in the access to healthcare around the world has claimed many lives that could have been saved from easily treatable diseases. WIth COVID-19, some progress to achieve SDG 3 has been reversed. During the coronavirus crisis, 70 countries have halted childhood vaccination programmes, and in many places, health services for cancer screening, family planning, or non-COVID-19 infectious diseases have been interrupted or are being neglected. Health service disruptions could reverse decades of improvement, warns the Lancet Public Health report. Allowing people to slip through these service gaps could affect population health for years to come. 

Even before COVID-19 the world was off track to end poverty by 2030 under SDG 1, with projections suggesting that 6% of the global population would still be living in extreme poverty in 2030. Now, an estimated 71 million additional people could be living in extreme poverty due to COVID-19. Income inequality is closely linked to the inequality of access to healthcare. Although income inequality has been falling in some countries, a global economic recession in the wake of the pandemic could push millions back into poverty and exacerbate all kinds of inequalities. Additionally, access to water and sanitation (SDG 6) remains a major health issue. 2.2 billion people remain without safe drinking water as the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted lack of access to sanitation for billions. SDG 1, SDG 2, and SDG 6 are closely linked to SDG 3. As the pandemic has set the entire world back in the achievement of these listed goals, the world is off track to meet the goals.

Despite the challenges, the global community has made significant progress in key areas of human health. Globally, maternal mortality has fallen by almost 50% since 1990. Specifically in Northern and Southern Africa, and Eastern Asia, maternal mortality has also been reduced by around two-thirds. The spread of vaccines for diseases like measles have prevented almost 15.6 million deaths globally. 

The obvious opportunity to hasten the achievement of the development goals is to take advantage of technology in disseminating healthcare solutions in deprived communities. Using information technology, increases the healthcare system’s ability to store, share and analyse health information and provide quality and timely healthcare.  We’re moving into an era where physicians can see patients remotely and accurately diagnose a patient’s problems, even in the most rural areas, through telemedicine. We’ve progressed from using technology to improve patient care and the healthcare industry to impacting our society as a whole.

As businesses, we have a role to play in supporting the achievement of the sustainable development goals. Whatever industry you find yourself in, there is always a path to link your core business strategies to the sustainable development goals. Interestingly, all the goals are intertwined. Hence it is our onus to protect and support the sustainability of our environment and people to wholly benefit from a healthy society.


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