In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” which includes the “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs) – tangible targets on eradicating hunger and disease, increasing economic opportunity for all, strengthening international peace and security, and combating climate change. There are 17 goals with 169 targets in the 2030 Agenda.

The SDGs build on the significant progress made by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were adopted in 2000 and sunset in 2015. The SDGs are broader in scope than the MDGs in that they apply to every country, rich and poor alike. They are cross-cutting; interdependent and integrated; guided by important principles, including universal respect for human rights and human dignity, the rule of law, justice, equality and non-discrimination; and of equal opportunity permitting the full realization of human potential and contributing to shared prosperity.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 is one overarching health goal: “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” SDG 3 provides a comprehensive and ambitious health agenda and has nine targets, including combating communicable and non-communicable diseases and maternal and child mortality; universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services; supporting the research and development of vaccines and medicines, and ensuring affordable access to them; and achieving universal health coverage.





Provide leadership beyond the health sector and greater coordination across the other goals and targets to achieve SDG 3. SDG 3 will also require substantial international and domestic investments; strong and inclusive accountability and reporting mechanisms; and a data revolution focused on strengthening quality information systems across the world to address global health needs in a tailored, thoughtful, and timely manner.

Use the SDGs as a framework to further U.S. foreign policy objectives and to take what the U.S. is already doing in a variety of areas and link them to efforts being undertaken by the private sector, NGOs, faith-based organizations, and other donor countries, as well as domestic resource mobilization efforts.

Etelvina Vita Da Costa, 15 (centre), outside the new toilet block at Ailuli Pre-Secondary School in Same, Manufahi District, Timor-Leste, 2015. Credit: WaterAid/ Tom Greenwood
Eduardo Felipe Homphriz Marklin, 46, with his daughter Merlina, 2, in front of the recently nished rainwater collection tank. Wawa Bar, Bilwi, Nicaragua, 2015. Credit: WaterAid/ Jordi Ruiz Cirera


When the United Nations adopted the MDGs in 2000, never before had there been such a global commitment to reducing extreme poverty and addressing its effects, such as poor health, food insecurity, and lack of access to clean water. Three MDGs specifically addressed health: reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other infectious diseases.

Sustainable Development Goal 3 – ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages – while broader than the health goals of the MDGs would ensure equitable and quality health services for all. And U.S. global health priorities and investments are critical contributions to achieving SDG 3. Because of investments in such health concerns as maternal and child health, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDs, and malaria, to name a few, millions of children reached their 5th birthday who might otherwise not have; preventable maternal deaths had been halved; and millions of individuals are receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy.

The SDGs offer a platform for countries to connect economics, health, education, and governance to the global effort to respond to the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable populations. Built on a generation of data-driven development, these goals were put together with input from people and governments around the world to break through the silos that separate such areas as global health, food security, and education from development to address inequity and disparity, the underlying issues of poverty in all countries.

With buy-in from the private sector, foundations, NGOs, and governments around the world, the SDGs can capture momentum from the successes of development policies and initiatives. It has been well-understood that achieving such goals as ending the AIDS epidemic, ending polio transmission, achieving universal access to reproductive health, ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, or other global health interventions can only be done by building health systems; focusing on entrepreneurship and education; and ensuring peace, security, and good governance. These goals represent some of the best thinking that the U.S. has had on development over the last 15 years and are built to actually harness the power of the private sector rather than look just toward overseas development assistance. In this way, we can have a meaningful, sustained impact on the lives of global citizens that benefit from our efforts, and produce a generation of healthy, productive members of society who contribute throughout their lifetimes to the world at large.


  1. SDG 3 and its targets:


Mike Beard, United Nations Foundation/Better World Campaign,
Marielle Hart, International HIV/AIDS Alliance,
Danielle Heiberg, Global Health Council,

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