The relationship between health and sustainable development is based on the premise that human beings are entitled to a healthy and productive life, in harmony with nature. It further recognizes that the goals of sustainable development can only be achieved in the absence of a high prevalence of debilitating diseases, while recognising that health gains for the whole population requires poverty eradication.
Significant strides have been made in improving health outcomes and life expectancy, however, people are still suffering needlessly from preventable diseases, and too many are dying prematurely. Progress has been uneven, both between and within countries. There is a 31-year gap between the countries with the shortest and longest life expectancies. At least 400 million people have no basic healthcare. More than one of every three women have experienced either physical or sexual violence at some point in their life. And, did you know that every 2 seconds someone aged 30 to 70 years dies prematurely from noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or cancer? (United Nations Development Program, 2019).
The focus of SDG 3
Overcoming disease and ill health will require concerted and sustained efforts, focusing on population groups and regions that have been neglected. The specific focus of sustainable development goal 3 is on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health; infectious disease and non-communicable diseases, and; more efficient funding and access to health systems (UN Knowledge Platform, 2019). The targets related to this SDG seek to address some key areas such as:
- Maternal and new born mortality
- HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, Hepatitis B and waterborne diseases
- Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease
- Suicide prevention, and mental health
- Substance abuse
- Road traffic injuries
- Family planning
- Hazardous chemicals and pollution
- Tobacco control
- Vaccines and medicines access
- Universal health coverage
All the while strengthening the institutions, structures and workforces that deliver these outcomes.
Australia’s Voluntary National Review and SDG 3
On 15 July 2018, Australia released the Voluntary National Review (VNR), which details Australia’s implementation of the SDGs since their adoption in 2016. The report addresses how Australia is performing against each of the goals and includes case studies of activities currently undertaken to achieve them. These activities include government initiatives and efforts from business, civil society, academia and youth. Australia’s Health 2016 summarises the key findings in relation to Australia’s performance against SDG 3:
“While there are positive signs and progress on many fronts, it is clear that Australia is not healthy in every way, and some patterns and trends give cause for concern. Chronic diseases… are becoming increasingly common in Australia due to a population that is increasing and ageing, as well as to social and lifestyle changes… Presenting a broad picture of health status can mask the fact that some groups in our community are not faring as well, including people living in rural and remote areas, the lowest socioeconomic groups, Indigenous Australians and people living with disability.”
Australia – Building a healthy ecosystem
The Australian approach to this SDG is centred around the importance of healthy ecosystems and socio-economic factors to human health. For example, the Victorian Government, and particularly Parks Victoria, has worked closely with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and its member organisations to develop an integrated approach recognising the contribution of nature and parks to overall health and wellbeing, building on a message of “Healthy Parks, Healthy People”. Similarly, Government mental health programs are complemented by broad-based community initiatives such as beyondblue and QLife, a peer-supported telephone and web-based counselling and referral service for LGBTI people.
As a country, we also continue to make strides, and are a global leader in many areas of public health and medical research. For example, through the introduction of plain packaging for tobacco products and the development of the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. Advances in technology may also assist with addressing health needs in rural and remote communities through the introduction of digital technology, including mobile health, online health records and telehealth systems.
Further, in addressing health challenges and ‘leaving no one behind’, a strategy has been introduced that focuses on reducing the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which is caused by a mix of social factors, risk factors and differences in access to appropriate health care. And in 2019, the Government announced a royal commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with a disability, following similar royal commissions which examined the abuse of vulnerable people, including institutional responses to child sex abuse and aged care facilities.
The third video in the SDG series starts with Professor Suzanne Young who gives a broad overview of the third sustainable development goal and its associated targets. Suzanne explains the Every Woman Every Child movement, the infectious disease points but also mentions the high number of premature deaths because of non-communicable diseases, the increase in road traffic deaths and the lack of physicians in about 40% of countries.
The second part of the video shows Dr Emma Seal, a research fellow from the Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe Business School. Emma researches the relationship between sport and sustainable development but also provides examples of the Sport for Development project funded by the Australian government, such as the Girls Empowerment through Cricket initiative. The project included girls between the ages of 12 and 18 in Papua New Guinea and consisted of cricket participation and education sessions focusing on key health issues impacting these girls.
If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.
This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.
More blogs in the SDG Series: