Good Health for All

SDG #3 – Good Health and Well-being

Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey
Founder & CEO,
Author, International Public Speaker, SDG Advocate.
“Health is Wealth”

We all have grown up listening to this saying. During the mid-1800s, when America was going through an economic downturn, the health of many of its people also plummeted, resulting in hundreds of casualties which made the famous essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson pen the original phrase “The first wealth is health”. With time, the expression got simplified and adapted to the current version, but the meaning remained the same – above all, health should be our priority.

Humanity has been witnessing the wrath of health hazards for centuries. Smallpox in 430 B.C. killed 20% of Greece’s population. The black death between 1346 and 1353 killed 200 million people across Asia, Europe, and Africa, and even the modern world is falling prey to epidemics. The Flu pandemic of 1968 took the lives of 1 million, and HIV/AIDS killed 36 million worldwide from 2005 to 2012, and 5% of the Sub-Saharan Africa population is still living with HIV. The most recent is the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that is only turning deadlier by evolving into different mutations.

It is not just the infectious or communicable diseases that affect the global population; they only account for approximately 20% of the deaths globally. The majority of deaths are caused by most common Health issues or non-communicable diseases such as heart attacks, chronic diseases, mental illnesses or genetic, physiological and environmental factors. Every year 41 million die of non-communicable diseases which is equal to 71% of all deaths globally. What is more disturbing to learn is that 85% of those in the group of 30 to 69 years of age die prematurely, which could be avoided if more attention were paid to their lifestyle, physical activity and diet.

The rapid growth in these illnesses can be attributed to the rise in sedentary lifestyles and rampant ignorance. With growing technology, our lives have accustomed to leisure and excess inactivity. Increased torpid behaviours incite weight gain, hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders that ultimately elevate complications counteracting with our body’s standard operation.

But it is not just our body that is fighting ailments, our mind as well is prone to sicknesses in the form of toxic relationships and societal pressures. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world each year, which is roughly one death every 40 seconds. It also ranks second on the list of causes of death for those aged 15 – 24 age and fourth for the ages between 35 and 54. And, if not death, the second leading consequence of depression is a disability.

The facts and statistics here may seem tractable and objective for bringing attention to SDG# 3, but finding a solution is deeply subjective because of varying levels of upbringing, habits, demographics and psychographics that affect humans differently.

Determinants of health:

It is easier to classify the causes of poor health by considering a person’s personal information. But, in reality, they alone are not the only contributors to maintaining good health. There are additional factors that determine a person’s well being and are called determinants of health. The main determinants of health are Income and social status, Education and literacy, Physical environments, Social and cultural environments and Access to health services.

These determinants of health highly influence both physical and mental health. Based on the dominance of these factors in an individual’s life, their health and well being also fluctuate.

For example, a person born in Switzerland has a life expectancy of 83 years, whereas a person born in the Republic of Sierra Leone is only expected to live about 54 years. The reason being Switzerland spends nearly $8000 per capita on the health care system, but the most significant difference is, in Europe, the government subsidises most health costs while many developing countries rely on private health insurance plans resulting in health care inequalities.

Good Health Promotion:

Considering the above good health and well-being, are susceptible to economic, social and political conditions that are often beyond our power. Nonetheless, the importance of exercise, a balanced diet and healthy relationships do not abate. As we continue to concentrate on creating a robust immunity for ourselves, we also must engage in supporting initiatives and regulations that promote healthy living. A country is only as strong as its population and so is its health. When a vast portion of its citizens are unhealthy, its efficiency and capacity are halved. So, let’s collectively fight systems that incubate unhealthy habits and risks of rapid infections and at the same time work towards building health literacy and good governance where every person has affordable access to adequate medical care.

“Each person deserves to grow healthy and fit, good food and good medicine help quite a bit.
Warm clothes are important and shoes the right size, and glasses, if you can’t see well with your eyes.”
From “A Smart Way to Start Doing Good”

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