Director-General's Office

Launch of Sustainable Development Goals themed issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Director-General of the World Health Organization

Geneva, Switzerland
31 August 2018

Good morning,

It’s a pleasure to be here to launch this very special edition of the Bulletin.

Since the year 2000, the world has made great progress against several of the leading causes of death and disease. Life expectancy has increased dramatically; infant and maternal mortality have declined; we’ve turned the tide on the HIV epidemic, malaria deaths have halved – and we could list many more successes.

But progress has been uneven, both between and within countries. There remains a 31-year discrepancy between the countries with the shortest and longest life expectancies.

While some countries have made impressive gains, national averages hide the fact that some communities have been left behind.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent an ambitious vision of the healthier, more prosperous, inclusive and resilient world we all want.

The SDGs are relevant to all countries, rich and poor.

You are all familiar with goal 3 – healthy lives and well-being for all, at all ages. The centrepiece of goal 3 is target 3.8: universal health coverage. This is the one target that, if achieved – or let’s say when achieved – will contribute to all the others.

One of the key features of the SDGs is that they are “integrated and indivisible” – none can be achieved without progress on the rest.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, calls SDG 3 a “docking station” for the rest of the SDGs.

For example, universal health coverage can help to reduce poverty by protecting people from a major cause of financial hardship;

good health can fuel employment and economic growth;

and strong health systems provide a defence against the social and economic consequences of outbreaks and other health emergencies.

Conversely, human health will benefit from progress towards the other goals: better housing can reduce the incidence of several diseases;

cleaner energy can improve air quality and prevent respiratory illness;

and building stronger institutions can help to minimise corruption and inefficiency in the health sector.

WHO’s new General Programme of Work is based on the SDGs, and is designed to help countries stay on track towards SDG3 and the other health-related targets.

Its three strategic priorities – universal health coverage, health security and improved health and well-being – encapsulate this commitment. We have also developed an impact framework to enable us to measure progress and remain focused on outcomes rather than outputs.

In April, the Chancellor of Germany, Dr Angela Merkel, the President of the Republic of Ghana, Mr Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, and the Prime Minister of Norway, Ms Erna Solberg, wrote a joint letter asking WHO to lead the development of a “Global Action Plan for Healthy Living and Well-being for All”.

This is a strong signal that the international community is looking to WHO to provide leadership at a global level to reduce the fragmentation, duplication and inefficiency that have too often undermined progress.

Time is short – 2030 is not far away. And resources are finite – countries must make important decisions about how to invest for the biggest impact.

That’s why science, evidence and research are so important. It’s vital to know what works and what doesn’t; what the barriers are to achieving the SDGs, and how they can be overcome.

This issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization is a welcome addition to that body of knowledge.

I thank and congratulate everyone involved in this publication. I am confident it will be of great value in shaping the strategies, policies, legislation, regulations and standards that will move us all closer to a fairer, safer, healthier world.

I thank you.