The SDGs Series (Goal 3): Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all

Dear reader,

For this SDG article, I decided to write on a more personal level. I look back to when the Covid-19 spread reached pandemic level and all of us had to self-isolate. During that first lockdown I wrote my first GCE blog post. What a year! Isolation, online learning, anxiety, and unforeseeable losses… Perhaps we can all agree that this entire period – which is not over yet – has put a spotlight on health and well-being, as we tried to remain healthy amidst the pandemic, and efforts have been directed to produce vaccines.

Besides our physiological health, the awareness of our mental health became highly important. Going through these intense lockdowns, may have brought to light previously unnoticed issues, and also caused new ones – that I wish we were all spared. At the end of the day, the whole world has been experiencing the complexity of health, that goes beyond the biological matrix, and the importance of taking care of our psyche. Within this context appropriately lies the third Sustainable Development Goal, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

The SDG 3 presents thirteen targets [1]. They cover a wide range of health issues, from maternal mortality prevention, mental health, prevention and treatment of substance abuse, reduction of illnesses and deaths caused by hazardous chemicals and pollution, to the achievement of universal health coverage. These targets are aligned with the World Health Organization’s definition of health, namely a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and a fundamental right for every human being regardless of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition [2].

Figure 1: Targets of the SDG 3

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the third SDG was making good progress. For instance, by 2017 a reduction of 41% in under-5 and neonatal mortality in 118 countries was computed. Progress was also shown in increased immunization coverage, a decrease in HIV incidence, and improvements to detect health emergencies in the 196 States Parties to the International Health Regulations (IHR), as they applied the 13 IHR’s core capacities [3].

Because of the huge efforts taken to stop the virus during the current pandemic and limiting factors, such as staff and resources, other health issues have gotten less attention lately. For example, in around 70 countries, childhood immunization programs as well as other medicine provisioning programs for HIV and TB have been interrupted, and a rise in malaria deaths by 100% is predicted. As less than half of the world’s population is provided with essential health services, all the progress accomplished might soon be reverted [4]. Since we currently live in this reality, feelings of loneliness, fear, depression, anxiety, and many others can surface. That is when we should be gentle to ourselves and reach out to someone.

Mental health is as important as physical health. In the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region, mental disorders are considered as one of the most significant public health challenges. They are leading causes of disabilities, and they affect individuals in a way that they feel unable or less able to exercise their daily lives in many aspects, including education, employment, self-care, and social life [5]. Awareness and treatment of mental health can lead to prevention of depression, substance abuse, suicide, and help people to cope and fulfill their activities. In order to aid the population, the WHO and the European Member States have been working to promote mental health services, disseminate information, and implement strategies to strengthen support for the community [5].

Each SDG has its importance, and we know that they are not isolated from another, but interconnected. In my view, the SDG 3 is indispensable to all the others, and to the entire world. Our integral health (mind and body) is what allows us to keep standing, to develop activities, ideas, technologies, to work, to improve the world’s situation, and to live fully happy lives. Our health is also linked to the planet’s health, its capacities, boundaries, and all the environmental impacts that have been adding up historically. Nevertheless, with this post, I wanted to bring to light a struggle that sometimes can be overlooked by some people, but it is a serious and more complex matter than we may perceive. How mental health is recognized and dealt with can vary by country, education, economic and social levels. Everyone should be aware, respectful and supportive. So, remember to be kind to yourself and to others, try to keep a healthy routine, connect to people, pause, breath, reflect, and reach out to professional help. You are not alone.


[1] Sustainable Development Goal 3: Targets and indicators

[2] World Health Organization – Constitution

[3] SDG Indicators UN Stats Report

[4] SDG 3

[5] Health targets

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