Sustainable development is not achievable without a healthy population. Even after the formulation of Agenda 2030 as the roadmap for global prosperity, millions of people trapped in poverty, especially in the developing, world still suffer the most from maladies associated with exposure to various environmental hazards, such as air and water pollution.
The Sustainable development goal number three (SDG 3) focuses primarily on health and sets out ambitious targets including the achievement of universal health coverage by 2030. However, to completely annihilate barriers related to achievement of a healthy global population (a catalyst for sustained socio-economic development), we should make a major strategic shift in global health, away from development and towards sustainability.
Disease-specific vertical programs will not ‘cut it’
From 2000-2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused on pushing for global investments on a limited number of locally placed diseases as a workable approach to enhancing health and diminishing poverty, especially in the developing world. However, this localized and specialized approach has yielded unsatisfactory results. Amidst rising global health epidemics like AIDS, we are faced with new and complex threats like climate change that were never factored in the previous global health management programs, especially in Africa. For this reason, it is unsustainable for health programs in Africa to be stuck on the old macroeconomic strategy to solving poverty-related health issues.
Other similar critiques have been advanced against the allocation of resources towards disease-specific vertical programs without encouraging the adoption of a more systems and determinants-based approach that also encourages integration between sectors. SDG 3defines a new roadmap towards economic growth, social equity, and environmental protection based on renewed and a shared vision for global health. If adopted properly, the SDG 3 can enhance the positive contribution that the global health community can make towards the achievement of sustainable development in the developing countries.
What We Need to do
To make this transition at regional levels, African governments in partnership with development partners must be fully committed to achieving this shift. Government ministries should create teams tasked with knowledge translation to work closely with scientists and experts in the academia to strengthen the role of knowledge and innovation in the implementation of the sustainable development goal number three. Recently, Bill Gates has teamed up with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to boost global sustainability efforts by encouraging Japan to aid more in global health initiatives.
The need for more innovative strategies to global health-related programs that integrate multiple sectors has recently been at the forefront of major global finance and development forums. African countries must therefore endeavor to adjust their approaches to global health programs so as to benefit from these funds.
As I indicated in the introduction, healthy environments is a critical component of sustainable development. We must, therefore, insist on integrating our health programs into sustainable development by improving environmental quality for the poor and vulnerable, supporting the efforts to address sustainability challenges that have a positive spillover on health, and adopting a precautionary approach on some policies, practices, and technologies that may have unintended negative impacts on health.
The health sector in Africa has a vital role to play in the continent’s sustainable development. We should endeavor to make a strong case for health as part of our sustainable development to protect the strides we’ve made in this sector over the past decade and ensure that the targets of agenda 2030 and agenda 2063 are met. This means that health experts must embrace the emerging approach to global health—one that integrates multiple sectors. 80 percent of all deaths due to Non Communicable Diseases occur in the developing world and the World Health Organization estimates that roughly 25 percent of the disease burden in the developing world is due to environmental factors. We have work to do.