The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations (UN) Member States in 2015, provides a common blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, today and tomorrow.
At the heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an urgent call to action for all countries in a global partnership.
This was presented by the Managing Director (CEO) of Gleneagles JPMC Sdn Bhd, Dr. Peter Tay, in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 18th International School Brunei Borneo (ISB) Global Issues Conference BGIC) at the International Congress Center (ICC), Berakas on June 25.
Dr Tay said the UN recognizes that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand in hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and boost economic growth, while tackling against climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
Discussing the 17 SDGs, he said: “A quick glance and one will immediately see that many of these goals are interrelated. We cannot achieve these SDGs in silos.
Giving an overview of SDG3, which covers good health and well-being, and the nine individual key performance indicators, Dr Tay said these include reducing the global maternal mortality ratio; ending preventable infant and child deaths; ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases; reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases; strengthen prevention and treatment of drug addiction; halve the number of deaths and injuries in road accidents; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services; achieving universal health coverage; and reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and pollution.
To achieve these goals, four means of implementation have been formulated, he said.
These include: strengthening implementation of the World Health Organization (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control; supporting research and development of vaccines against communicable and non-communicable diseases, providing access to affordable medicines and vaccines; dramatically increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of health workers, especially in developing countries; and pandemic preparedness through capacity building for all, especially developing countries, in early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks.
Addressing aspects of health, the CEO said that some may define health as the absence of disease, but the WHO definition of health is much more comprehensive and holistic.
In the 1946 WHO constitution, health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, and as the possession of the highest state of health likely to be achieved is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political opinion, economic or social condition.
The Oslo Center for Governance, which is part of the UN, says we have made great progress against several leading causes of death and disease. Life expectancy has increased dramatically, infant and maternal mortality rates have fallen, and we have reversed the trend of HIV and malaria deaths have halved.
“But the world is behind in achieving the health-related SDGs. Progress has been uneven and there is a 31-year gap between the countries with the shortest and longest life expectancies,” Dr Tay said.
Bringing home the point of inequality in health care, Dr Tay showed a slide from the Oslo Center for Governance which indicated that at least 400 million people lacked access to basic health care ; more than 1.6 billion people live in fragile environments; more than 15 million people living with HIV have not yet received antiretroviral treatment; and every two seconds someone dies prematurely from non-communicable diseases, among others.
Summarizing the challenges faced in achieving SDG3, Dr Tay said they include: inequality in health care coverage in economic, gender, race, ethnicity, equality gender and others such as caste; reduced funding at global and national levels, as well as the lack of coordinated efforts and the weakening of international organizations; the growing influence of tobacco companies, big pharma, alcohol and the food industry; all of which are exacerbated by geopolitical tensions and the rising tide of fake news facilitated by social media.
“No one is safe until all are safe. The pandemic will only end when a large majority of people are immune, either through vaccination or infections. We are now seeing the BA4 and BA5 variants begin to drive the next wave.
Dr Tay said the success of all the SDGs depended on a peaceful and economically viable world; one that supports and empowers strong international institutions like the UN and WHO.
“The pandemic has exacerbated global inequalities, exposed a systemic failure to mount an effective response to global health challenges, and weakened the international institutions that have been tasked with such a response,” he said, further noting that the worsening geopolitical climate is driving us down. a path that many of us really don’t want to go.
Summarizing his message, Dr Tay reiterated that the 17 SDGs are interconnected and must be tackled together, as the world needs to address the major determinants of health and well-being, including socio-economic determinants such as education, income and gender. Moreover, investing in health care must be a priority and adequate funding must be ensured if there is to be a long-term impact.
“We must strive not only to fight disease, but to achieve a healthy society for all. We must work together as an international community to achieve the SDGs,” he added.