MDGs: progress made in health

2015 was the final year for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – goals set by governments in 2000 to guide global efforts to end poverty.

Progress towards the MDGs has, on the whole, been remarkable and many global progress records have been set. Globally, the HIV, TB and malaria epidemics were turned around, child mortality and maternal mortality dropped significantly (53% and 45% respectively since 1990) though fell short of the MDG targets.

Progress made but gaps remain

  • HIV, tuberculosis and malaria targets (halting and reversing the global epidemic) were met.
  • Child mortality decreased by 53% – a great achievement, but fell short of the 67% target.
  • Deaths related to pregnancy and childbirth (maternal mortality) fell by more than 40%, impressive but short of the 75% target.
  • The target for drinking water was met, with 91% of the global population using an improved drinking water source, compared to 76% in 1990.
  • Between 1990 and 2015, the global prevalence of underweight among children aged less than 5 declined from 25% to 14%, nearly reaching the target of a 50% reduction.
  • Official Development Assistance for health increased from US$11.6 billion in 2000 to US$ 35.9 billion in 2014.

Health in the post-2015 United Nations development agenda

In September 2015, more than 150 world leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York to formally adopt the new post-2015 development agenda – a global plan of action for the next 15 years.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets demonstrate the scale and ambition of this new agenda.

The SDGs seek to build on the MDGs and complete what these did not achieve, particularly on improving equity to meet the needs of women, children and the poorest, most disadvantaged people.

Under the new Agenda, the UN, WHO and all partner organizations recommit to the full realization of all the MDGs, in particular by providing focussed and scaled-up assistance to least-developed countries and other countries in special situations.

In addition, the SDGs aim to tackle emerging challenges including the growing impact of noncommunicable diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, and the changing social and environmental determinants that affect health, such as increasing urbanization, pollution and climate change.

An overarching health goal to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” is underpinned by 13 targets that cover a wide spectrum of WHO’s work. Almost all of the other 16 SDGs impact or are impacted by health.

WHO papers

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