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Publication date: 
November 22, 2019


The UN General Assembly launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, 2015. The original global SDG framework included 17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 unique indicators. Of these, 12 goals, 33 targets, and 57 indicators have been identified as health-related SDGs (HRSDGs), that is, pertaining to health outcomes, health services, and well-established environmental, occupational, behavioural, and metabolic risks. The scope of health in the SDGs is much broader than in the Millennium Development Goals, spanning from maternal and child health and infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, injuries, risk factors, and health-system functions. Regular monitoring of the HRSDGs is important for fostering a shared notion of accountability for results, identifying important gaps in resources and rates of progress, and taking into account emerging challenges that can influence the trajectory of progress. Regular monitoring and accountability will be essential to sustain policy focus and funding for the broad and complex HRSDG agenda.

100 countries have published SDG monitoring reports since 2015 and, in 2019, 38 more countries indicated intentions to report. In addition to these governmentled efforts, several international groups report on the HRSDGs: WHO in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019;5, the World Bank in 2017 and 2018; the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) collaboration in 2016, 2017, and 2018; the Sustainable Development Solutions Network in 2016, 2017, and 2018; and Our World in Data’s SDG dashboard starting in 2017–18. These reporting efforts on the HRSDGs differ in the number of indicators, countries, and years covered. Where reports overlap for the same indicator, country, and year, correlation coefficients of the estimates vary widely. For example, WHO and GBD’s most recent reports have correlation coefficients varying from 0·94 forunder-five mortality (indicator 3.2.1) to 0·43 for road traffic mortality (indicator 3.6.1). Poor correlations for some indicators across reporting efforts highlight inconsistencies that emerge from using different HRSDG definitions, data sources, data processing, and data synthesis approaches. In this Viewpoint, we examine why HRSDG results can differ so much across these empirical monitoring efforts and make recommendations on moving towards more standardised, universal assessments.


Asma S, Lozano R, Chatterji S, Swaminathan S, Marinho MDF, Yamamoto N, Varavikova E, Misganaw A, Ryan M, Dandona L, Murray CJL. Monitoring the health-related Sustainable Development Goals: lessons learned and recommendations for improved measurement. The Lancet. 21 November 2019. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)32523-1.