Health: Why it matters?

Ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing for all at all ages is important to building prosperous societies, since healthy people are the foundation for healthy economies. 

However, this remains to be a challenge and requires a strong commitment. 

Despite great strides by the UN in improving people's health and wellbeing in recent years, inequalities in health care access still persist. More than six million children still die before their fifth birthday each year, and only half of all women in developing regions have access to the health care they need. 

The UN has put out in 2015 the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

This Agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. 

It was endorsed by all UN Member States in September 2015 in order to achieve sustainable development in its three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. 

The 2030 Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the third goal of which (SDG 3) is "Good Health and Well-Being". 

Goal 3 seeks to ensure health and well-being for all, at every stage of life. The Goal addresses all major health priorities, including reproductive, maternal and child health; communicable, non-communicable and environmental diseases; universal health coverage; and access for all to safe, effective, quality and affordable medicines and vaccines. It also calls for more research and development, increased health financing, and strengthened capacity of all countries in health risk reduction and management. 

Among the targets defined under SDG3 to achieve by 2030 are: Reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age; ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other tropical diseases; reducing by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment; halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents; strengthening the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol; and the list goes on and on. 

Ensuring healthy lives for all requires a strong commitment, but the benefits outweigh the cost. 
For example, if we spent $1 billion in expanding immunization coverage against influenza, pneumonia and other preventable diseases, we could save 1 million children's lives each year. In the past decade, improvements in health and heath care led to a 24 per cent increase in income growth in some of the poorest countries.

According to the UN, major progress has been made in several areas, including in child and maternal health as well as in addressing HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. 
Maternal mortality has fallen by almost 50 per cent since 1990; measles vaccines have averted nearly 15.6 million deaths since 2000; and 13.6 million people had access to antiretroviral therapy by the end of 2014. 
We may have come a long way, but we still have a longer way to go. Real progress means achieving universal health coverage; making essential medicines and vaccines affordable; ensuring that women have full access to sexual and reproductive health care; and ending all preventable deaths of children. 

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Cynthia Darrous Khoury, UNIC Beirut Public Information Officer (Featured in Jordan Times)