New WHO Report Explores Key Drivers of Health

Almost all the sustainable development goals are directly related to health or will contribute to health indirectly.

A new report from the World Health Organization: “Health in 2015: from MDGs to SDGs,” identifies the key drivers of progress in health under the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and lays out actions that countries and the international community should prioritize to achieve the new sustainable development goals (SDGs). 

The new agenda requires that all 3 dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – are addressed in an integrated manner, according to a statement from WHO officials.

Almost all the SDGs are directly related to health or will contribute to health indirectly. One goal reflects a new focus on noncommunicable diseases and the achievement of universal health coverage.

“Universal health coverage cuts across all of the health-related goals,” Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General of Health Systems and Innovation at WHO said in a prepared statement. “It is the linchpin of development in health and reflects the SDGs strong focus on equity and reaching the poorest, most disadvantaged people everywhere.”

Although the health millenium development goals (MDGs) missed a number of global targets, the past 15 years witnessed major declines in child and maternal mortality and progress in the fight against HIV, TB and malaria in developing countries, according to the statement.

Key ingredients for success included a doubling in global funding for health, the creation of new funding mechanisms and partnerships, and the critical role of civil society in tackling diseases such as HIV/AIDS, according to the report. Research investments led to the scale-up in all countries of new interventions such as antiretroviral therapy for HIV treatment and insecticide-treated bednets to prevent malaria.

The WHO report presents the latest data and in-depth analysis for the key areas outlined in the health SDGs:

  • reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health;
  • infectious diseases including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis and neglected tropical diseases;
  • noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) including heart disease, cancer and diabetes;
  • mental health and substance use including narcotics and harmful use of alcohol;
  • injuries and violence; and
  • universal health coverage.

“Snapshots” on 34 different health topics outline trends, achievements made, reasons for success, challenges and strategic priorities for improving health in the different areas. These “snapshots” range from air pollution to hepatitis to road traffic injuries.

In this report, WHO also explores how health contributes to and benefits from the other 16 SDGs and examines the implications of emerging issues such as technological and environmental change on global health.

In 2016, WHO will publish the first in a series of annual reports on the SDGs to set the baseline and measure progress toward achieving the goals over the next 15 years.


1. WHO. Report: “Health in 2015: from MDGs to SDGs.” Accessed: Dec. 8, 2015.