Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being


In recent years, medical innovations have improved health across the globe. However, the benefits of these technologies are unequally distributed. Only half the world’s population has access to essential health services, and many who do have access struggle to afford it. Progress has slowed when it comes to combating major diseases, including malaria and tuberculosis.  

Maternal mortality has declined overall, but significantly fewer women in sub-Saharan Africa had skilled birth attendants than women elsewhere in 2018, putting them at higher mortality risk. In 2017, only 67% of people had the necessary doses of the vaccine to prevent measles, which causes death and disability. 

To address these disparities and improve global health, the United Nations has set forth SDG 3. 

The Goal 

SDG 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Targets and Indicators 

SDG 3 has thirteen targets, or more detailed ideas about what achieving “good health and well-being” really means. One target is to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to under 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030. 

Another target aims to end the spread of communicable diseases, which are diseases spread from person to person, like HIV and hepatitis. Other targets seek to prevent and treat substance abuse, promote mental health, make universal health coverage a reality, and help all countries prepare for global health risks. 

What’s Already Being Done

Progress in many of the target areas is continuing. However, the rate of that progress has slowed, especially because of the COVD-19 crisis, which led to a resurgence in many other diseases that were previously declining, like tuberculosis and malaria, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2020, the current rate of improvement will be insufficient to meet the targets.

Still, the world is making headway on SDG 3. For example, Denmark and the Netherlands provide almost entirely free healthcare for all registered citizens. In 2014, under 0.2% of the Netherlands’ population was left without insurance. In the following year, the Netherlands publicly financed 77% of all curative healthcare services. And while the Netherlands provides more benefits than most other countries, it does not guarantee healthcare services to undocumented immigrants.

Applying It: How Everyone Can Help

While big organizations and governments must take action, you can also help the world meet SDG 3. You can spread the message about health for all through social media and educate yourself online. Use your voice to advocate for people who are least likely to have access to healthcare: migrants, low-income communities, and people of color. You can also donate to organizations like Doctors Without Borders, which gives medical assistance to those affected by extreme circumstances or excluded from healthcare, or the National Immigration Law Center, which helps give immigrants access to healthcare. These small steps can help the world achieve SDG 3!

Think Further

  1. What is one action you can take to promote the goal of health for everyone at all ages?
  2. As discussed, health disparities are tied to race, immigration, and poverty. Can you name some other issues you think might also be related?
  3. Can you name some barriers to healthcare? In other words, what do you think might be stopping people from getting healthcare? 


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Learn More

  1. Biswas, Dan, et al. . “Access to Health Care for Undocumented Migrants from a Human Rights Perspective: A Comparative Study of Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.” SSRN, October 16, 2013.
  2. “Goal 3 .:. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.” United Nations. United Nations. Accessed May 15, 2020.
  3. “Health – United Nations Sustainable Development.” United Nations. United Nations. Accessed May 15, 2020.
  4. Tolbert, Jennifer, et al.. “Key Facts about the Uninsured Population.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, February 10, 2020.