The third of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is ‘Good Health and Well-Being’. In many parts of the developing world, people are dying from diseases and health complications that can be prevented, treated or cured- diseases that have been almost wiped out in much of the developed world. Diseases like Malaria, tuberculosis, polio and HIV/AIDS have all declined in recent years as more and more people get safe access to clean water and vaccines but there is still so much further to go.

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Health and Well-Being have dramatically improved over the last few decades. The Millenium Goals that ran from 2000 to 2015 played a major role in this and the SDGs that run until 2030 look to improve on that even further. There is still a huge disparity between developed countries and developing countries, however.

The UN uses three different aspects of health and well-being to better: child health, maternal health and diseases.

Child Health

As of 2015, more than six million children were dying before their 5th birthday with four-fifths of that number occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. Children that are born in poverty to parents that have no education are less likely to survive compared to those from wealthier families with parents that have even just a basic level of education.

Maternal Health

Maternal health is another area where huge differences between health in developed and developing countries can be seen. The maternal morality ratio- mothers who die during childbirth- is fourteen times higher in developing regions compared to developed.  Women often don’t receive the recommended amount of healthcare either, putting themselves and their children at greater risk.

There have been significant advancements since the 90s, however. Globally, maternal morality has dropped by almost 50%; in Eastern and Southern Asia, and Northern Africa, that drop is as high as two-thirds. The targets of Goal 3 of the SDGs hopes to build and improve that even further.


HIV/AIDS is still prevalent in developing nations. With a reduction in deaths from Malaria, HIV/AIDS is the now the leading cause of deaths in women of reproductive age and adolescents. New infections of HIV have dropped by nearly 60% in children but that number is still high- in 2013 there were 240,000 children that were newly infected with HIV.

Malaria and measles have seen rapid drops in incidence and morality rates between 2000 and 2015. Around 6.2 million malaria deaths are believed to have been averted since 2000 with many of them of children under 5 in sub-Saharan Africa. In that same time period, measles vaccines are believed to have averted 15.6 million deaths in children.


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South-East Asia aims to wipe out measles by 2020 (Source:


Targets of Goal 3

There are 13 targets of Goal 3 to make improvements in child health, maternal health and a reduction in diseases

  • By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
  • By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce the neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births
  • By 2030 end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases
  • By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseased through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
  • Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol
  • By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents
  • By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes
  • Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines for all
  • By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination
  • Strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate
  • Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all
  • Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in the least developed countries and small island developing states
  • Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks

World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is a branch of the UN that is tasked with improving health in countries and regions all over the world. The work that they do is critical as it often occurs in regions that are unstable and at most risk of disease.

They play a vital role in preventing the outbreak of diseases in emergency situations. The civil war in Syria that has led to refugee camps set up just inside the borders of many neighbouring countries often become hotbeds for diseases to spread. The WHO has shipped tonnes and tonnes of medical supplies to these refugee camps to try and prevent humanitarian disasters becoming more extreme.


Doctors in Syria are immunising children against a Polio outbreak in the country (Source:


A polio outbreak in Syria has been monitored by the WHO with many children and adults in reported regions receiving vaccines to prevent the spread further. Over 200,000 children under 2 years old have received the vaccine with the hope of vaccinating more children in the accessible areas of the Aleppo region.

Next Week

Next week the social sustainability theme continues with a look at how the UN and the SDGs aim to improve education around the world!


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