To address the stagnant advancement of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals, immediate action is required: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is releasing the 2023 edition of its annual World Health Statistics report, which includes updated data on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects and the advancement of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.
The research, which uses data up to 2022, emphasizes how important health indicators have stagnated recently as compared to trends from 2000 to 2015. Additionally, it raises awareness of the increasing danger posed by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and climate change and urges a coordinated and bolstered response.

The paper provides up-to-date facts on how the epidemic has affected global health, which has slowed progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals. Globally, COVID-19 caused a devastating loss of 336.8 million years of life in the years 2020–2021. This translates to a loss of 22 years of life on average for each excess mortality, sadly and abruptly ending the lives of millions of people.

Since 2000, maternal and pediatric mortality rates have significantly improved, dropping by one-third and one-half, respectively. Along with a decreased risk of early mortality from NCDs and injuries, the incidence of infectious diseases such as HIV, TB, and malaria also decreased. These factors added up to a rise in the world’s life expectancy, which went from 67 years in 2000 to 73 years in 2019.

The epidemic has exacerbated disparities in access to high-quality healthcare, routine vaccinations, and financial security, meanwhile, and has thrown several health-related indicators farther off course. As a result, decreasing trends in TB and malaria have been reversed, and less people have received treatment for NTDs.

“The World Health Statistics is WHO’s yearly assessment of the global health situation. The WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that the report “sends a stark message about the threat of noncommunicable diseases, which take an immense and increasing toll on lives, livelihoods, health systems, communities, economies, and societies.” To get back on track toward the Sustainable Development Goals, “the report calls for a substantial increase in investments in health and health systems.”

Despite improvements in overall health, approximately three-quarters of all annual fatalities are now attributable to NCDs, a number that has steadily increased. By the middle of the century, if this pattern holds, it is predicted that NCDs would be responsible for 77 million of the 90 million yearly fatalities, or roughly 86% of them; this is an almost 90% increase in absolute numbers since 2019.

For several metrics, more recent patterns indicate a slowing in the annual rate of reduction (ARR). To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals target, the worldwide maternal mortality ratio, for instance, must decrease by 11.6% annually between 2021 and 2030. The WHO’s End TB Strategy milestone of 2025 was barely halfway reached by the net decrease in TB incidence from 2015 to 2021.

Despite reductions in exposure to several health concerns, including air pollution and violence, improvement has been insufficient. Other dangers, such as violence and unclean water and sanitation, have increased.
Alarmingly, there is no obvious indication that the prevalence of obesity is declining. In addition, improvements in access to crucial healthcare services have stalled since before 2015, and there has been no success in easing the financial strain brought on by high medical expenses. Our ability to attain Universal Health Coverage by 2030 is severely hampered by this.

Dr. Samira Asma, WHO Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact, cautions that the COVID-19 pandemic serves as a crucial reminder that progress is neither guaranteed nor linear. “We must act decisively and collectively to deliver a measurable impact in all countries if we are to stay on track towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda.”

We predict that the part on climate change and health, which is included in this year’s report for the first time, will become more important going forward. To monitor progress and enhance national and international health policy, timely, trustworthy, and disaggregated data are essential for this issue and many others.

About health-related Sustainable Development Goals

The WHO has identified health-related Sustainable Development Goals as a global framework for promoting and improving health worldwide. These goals encompass various areas such as maternal and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health, universal health coverage, and access to essential medicines. The aim is to address health disparities, ensure healthy lives and well-being for all, and achieve global health equity. The WHO works in collaboration with member countries and partners to implement strategies and interventions that contribute to the achievement of these goals, ultimately leading to better health outcomes and a more sustainable future for everyone.

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