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Health in UNMDG

In 2000, the global community made an historic commitment: to eradicate extreme poverty and improve the health and welfare of the world’s poorest people within 15 years. The commitment was set forth in the Millennium Declaration and derived from it are eight time-bound goals, known as the Millennium Development Goals.

Health is at the heart of the MDGs - a recognition that health is central to the global agenda of reducing poverty as well as an important measure of human well-being. Health is represented in three of the eight goals, and makes an acknowledged contribution to the achievement of all the other goals, in particular those related to the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, education, and gender equality. Importantly, the health goals also focus on problems which disproportionally affect the poor.

… Importantly, the MDGs have also helped to crystallize the challenges in health. As developed and developing countries begin to look seriously at what it would take to achieve the health MDGs, the bottlenecks to progress have become clearer. These challenges - again, we have identified five - are the subject of this report. They also represent core elements of WHO’s strategy for achieving the goals.


The first challenge is to strengthen health systems. Without more efficient and equitable health systems, countries will not be able to scale up the disease prevention and control programmes required to meet the specific health goals of reducing child and maternal mortality and rolling back HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria.

The second challenge is to ensure that health is prioritized within overall development and economic policies. This means looking beyond the health system and addressing the broad determinants of ill-health - low levels of education, poverty, unequal gender relations, high risk behaviours, and an unhealthy environment - as well as raising the profile of health within national poverty reduction and government reform processes.

The third challenge is to develop health strategies that respond to the diverse and evolving needs of countries. This means designing cost-effective strategies which address those diseases and conditions which account for the greatest share of the burden of disease, now and in the future.

The fourth challenge is to mobilize more resources for health in poor countries. Currently, low-income countries cannot ‘afford’ to achieve the MDGs, and aid is not filling the gap.

The fifth challenge is that we need to improve the quality of health data. Measuring country progress towards the MDGs is a key responsibility of national governments, and global monitoring is one of the most important functions performed by the United Nations system.