UN Sustainable Goal Promises to Improve Health Care for Millions of People

World leaders pledge to tackle health and other issues at historic event.

When a new set of development goals were adopted today at a special United Nations summit in New York, world leaders included a pledge to improve the health and well-being of millions of people who lack access to basic health care services and medicines.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 will replace the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted in 2000 and will be completed by 2016. One of the new 17 goals focuses on providing everyone everywhere with access to health care without financial hardship.

“With its inclusion in the goals, the U.N. has acknowledged health as a fundamental driver of sustainable development and economic growth,” said Mario Ottiglio, director of public affairs, communications and global health policy at the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

Indeed, researchers have found that a one percent increase in life expectancy increases total gross domestic product (GDP; a measure of a country’s economic health) by an average of 6 percent.

How an increase in life expectancy affects GDP.

Yet access to health care remains a challenge in low- and middle-income countries, where 400 million people lack access to basic health services and proper medicines. The health systems in many of these countries were established to focus on infectious diseases and remain unprepared to deal with chronic, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The UN’s goals are looking to change that, but it will require a serious effort on the part of governments around the world. “To achieve universal health coverage, there needs to be a political commitment to reprioritizing health care in government budgets,” Ottiglio said. “What’s more, harnessing the full potential of UHC requires continued multi-stakeholder dialogue to find efficient ways of managing complex collaborations, including tailored and country-owned solutions.”

To achieve universal health care, there needs to be a political commitment to reprioritizing health care in government budgets.

The health care industry has been particularly active in developing partnerships to prevent disease and speed the availability of new therapies in the developing world.

Celgene has been answering the call to improve global health through its partnerships. Our collaborative initiative with Indiana University, the United States Agency for International Development and the Academic Model for Providing Access to Health care is just one example. This initiative is working in Kenya to improve pharmacy security and patient safety systems by training medical personnel, implementing risk management plans and improving distribution.

“The idea is to build on some of the success that we’ve had in public-private partnerships while working toward the Millennium Development Goals,” said Ottiglio. “We need to see more of these partnerships as we look to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals.”

Now that the U.N. has approved these new goals, the organization will need to figure out how to measure progress in a meaningful way, a discussion that will continue over the next year.

“The agenda is huge,” said Ottiglio. “In health care, we need to focus on what works, what we know is the most cost-effective in the long-term and how we can remove barriers that exist for patients around the world.”