Sustainable Development Goal 3-Good Health and Well-being By Mark Darko



Good health and well-being is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2015. The official wording is: “To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”
The targets of SDG 3 cover and focus on various aspects of healthy life and healthy lifestyle. Progress towards the targets is measured using twenty-one indicators.

SDG 3 has 13 targets and 28 indicators to measure progress toward targets. The first nine targets are “outcome targets”. Those are: reduction of maternal mortality; ending all preventable deaths under five years of age; fight communicable diseases; ensure reduction of mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote mental health; prevent and treat substance abuse; reduce road injuries and deaths; grant universal access to sexual and reproductive care, family planning and education; achieve universal health coverage; and reduce illnesses and deaths from hazardous chemicals and pollution. The four “means to achieving” SDG 3 targets are: implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; support research, development and universal access to affordable vaccines and medicines; increase health financing and support health workforce in developing countries; and improve early warning systems for global health risks.

SDG 3 aims to achieve universal health coverage, that seeks equitable access of healthcare services to all men and women. It proposes to end the preventable death of newborns, infants and children under five (child mortality) and end epidemics.

Good health is essential to sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda. It focuses on broader economic and social inequalities, urbanization, climate crisis, continuing burden of HIV and other infectious diseases, not forgetting emerging challenges such as non-communicable diseases. Considering the global pandemic of COVID-19, there is a need to give significant attention towards the realization of good health and well being on a global scale.


Limitations and implications

Investing in multi-stakeholder partnerships to remove barriers to equitable health services which are responsive to increasingly diverse population health needs, and to reach those most further behind first is essential for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Strong commitment by UN Member States and the international community to ensuring good health and wellbeing is achieved is therefore emphasised.

A recent analysis in 2017 showed that the input, outcome and impact indicators has limitations in their approach. SDG 3 tracks population health across many different disease states, however it possesses several limitations according to this analysis. It does not track protection from financial risk, primary health care inputs, how satisfied users are with the health care system and does not provide with a way to tackle the prevention, diagnosing, treatment and management of various diseases.

Firstly, primary health care. There are no indicators for primary health care, only two indicators for resource management; health care worker density and hospital access. This does not factor in key primary healthcare systems and community inputs, such as accessing a PHC clinic, health education or the availability of essential medicines at these clinics. PHC is a foundation for improving population health and allows a step towards a strong health system with universal health coverage. Policymakers and practitioners should look at and think about how to add PHC into achieving SDG 3.

Secondly, no comprehensive approach is present for being able to diagnose, prevent, manage and treat any disease. An impact indicator gets information from a preceding output indicator from either public or health care services but never both. This means that SDG 3 focuses on targeted interventions for priority diseases, but does not promote an approach for preventing, diagnosing, treating and managing any disease. Additionally, the output indicators do not include preventative health behaviours such as condom use, physical exercise or nutrition. Furthermore, five of the impact indicators have no preceding outputs but they can be easily addressed through environmental health and other programs. Policymakers should be aware that the guidance given in SDG 3 is only a summary, and more factors have to be considered in order to improve population health for each disease.

Lastly, the indicators do not track financial risk protection or user satisfaction using health care services. If people are not protected against financial implications of using the health care system, this can lead to a decrease in access of care. A patient`s satisfaction with the health care system should also be monitored, as this can negatively impact the future interactions with the health care system. Policymakers should be aware that by providing services to improve population health, this will have implications on financial status and satisfaction with the healthcare system which is not portrayed in SDG 3.


The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 is a serious threat to the progress of SDG 3 aimed to ensure healthy lives and well-being for all. As the pandemic spread worldwide, the lockdown had over 70 countries putting a hold on various health services such as child vaccination, family planning, cancer screening, etc. Hundreds of thousand more under five fatality should be expected in 2020. The pandemic has also led to overloading and overcrowding of health facilities and many people have become afraid of visiting these centers for fear of being infected.

Most non-COVID-19 diseases have been either neglected or interrupted and healthcare systems are in turn stretched beyond their capacity and capabilities to provide adequate care. This is a great reverse in decades of improvement and has reiterated the need for governments to prioritize issues of healthy living and well-being and work towards the goal of SDG 3.

The governments of countries who already suffer from health workers shortage and other healthcare systems should take advantage of the lessons learnt during this crisis and build up resilience to combat future health pandemics and achieve progress towards Universal Health Coverage.

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Mark Darko, Accra.

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