Health SDGs: Achievable, or Fairy Tales?

photo of word cloud graphic

By Dayna Kerecman Myers


Getting Real About the SDGs

In addition to the planetary health theme, this year's CUGH zeroed in on the SDGs and implications for academic global health, as well as the successes and failures of MDGs.

In that spirit, a session yesterday asked whether the global health community has a realistic shot at achieving the 9 health targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030—or if they are merely a batch of utopian fairy tales. Gavin Yamey, professor of the Practice of Global Health & Public Policy, Duke University, addressed concerns of a dilution of focus on health, offering a word cloud (pictured above) to drive home his point.

Still, the SDGs reflect a more inclusive agenda and a more interconnected world. As an example, Minh-Thu Pham, executive director of policy of the United Nations Foundation, noted that environment was a bit of a second thought in the MDGs … and “in this day and age, you can’t separate development and climate.”

The goals may be lofty and wide-ranging. But John McArthur, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program, argued that while we’re still not anywhere close to where we need to be, the point of a goal is to change the trajectory. And previously, many people felt excluded from the global agenda … but with the SDGs, “What we have now is the biggest political and policy tent the world has ever seen.” He added, “… what we need is a big conference center with separate rooms. And then we can all talk in the hallways. And that’s what we don’t have in the international systems—ways for the practitioners and experts to talk in the hallways. The SDGs give us the opportunity to do so.”

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