Sustainable Development Goal 3: What It Means and How You Can Help

by | Apr 12, 2022 | Jobs

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were crafted in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly with the aim of building a better and more sustainable future for all. The goals are 17 in total and include the following: 

(1) No poverty (6) Clean Water and Sanitation (11) Sustainable Cities and Communities (16) Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
(2) No Hunger (7) Affordable and Clean Energy (12) Responsible Consumption and Production  (17) Partnerships for the Goals
(3) Good Health  (8) Decent Work and Economic Growth (13) Climate Action
(4) Quality Education (9) Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure (14) Life Below Water
(5) Gender Equality (10) Reduced Inequality  (15) Life on Land


In this article, we are going to focus on Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. While it is undeniable that tremendous developments have been made in the health sector over the last few decades, we still face dire health crises around the globe. In the last two years alone, the world has been battling Covid-19, a deadly pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives. Other diseases such HIV/AIDS, ebola and cancer still pose a grave threat to humanity. 

Good health is essential because it allows us to pursue other important concerns. In the absence of good health, the world is literally paralyzed. As an example, Covid-19 has deeply impeded economic activities. Millions of people have lost their jobs and many students have been forced to abandon their studies. Entire industries have been shut down and millions have been left without any means of sustaining themselves. 

There are 13 targets included in Sustainable Development Goal 3. While developed countries are likely to achieve these targets by 2030 as intended, it will take a tremendous amount of effort from African countries to get there given the current infrastructural challenges. However, young people, who are the majority demographic in African countries, have a major role to play in the attainment of these targets. Keep reading to find out what the 13 targets of the Sustainable Development Goal 3 are and how you can contribute to their attainment. 

Target 1: Reduction of Maternal Mortality

Maternal mortality refers to the death of mothers due to complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. This often occurs in the absence of timely intervention and proper care from skilled health workers. 

According to data from WHO, in 2017 alone, about 295,000 women died from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. Of these deaths, nearly two-thirds occured in African countries. The maternal mortality ratio in developing countries was estimated at 462 out of 100,000 live births while in high-income countries, the ratio stood at 11 per 100,000 births. 

The absence of skilled medical care during and after pregnancy is the leading cause of these disturbing figures. The only way to achieve the intended target of less than 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030 is by improving access to medical care particularly among women living in low-income and remote areas. 

If you are wondering what you can do to contribute to reducing maternal mortality, there are several professions you can pursue to do that. Below are a few common examples: 

These are just a few of the many career paths you can follow to contribute to reducing the rate of maternal mortality. Check out our next article to learn more about the wide range of professions you can pursue to contribute in advancing SDG 3. 

Target 2: Reduction of Infant Mortality 

According to a report by the United Nations, 5.2 million children died in 2019 before the age of five. Another report by the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that infant mortality was highest in African countries. Statistics from 2018 showed that out of 1000 live births, 52 children died in the Africa region. This is in stark contrast to Europe where the figure was considerably lower (7 deaths per 1000 live births). These reports indicate that there is an urgent need to pursue the fulfillment of this target in the African continent. 

Most of the factors that lead to child mortality are preventable. These factors include: early birth, pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition. Some of the simple but effective ways of reducing child mortality include providing access to qualified medical care before, during, and after birth; immunizing newborn babies in a timely manner; and improving access to clean water and sanitation. 

Just like the first target, you can play a role in reducing infant mortality by pursuing a career as a pediatrician, midwife, nutritionist, nurse, among others. Most developing countries have a shortage of professionals skilled in these areas, which means practicing any of these professions is going to have a substantial impact in the community. 

Target 3: End Epidemics and Communicable Diseases

Infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, are a leading cause of death in the developing world. According to data from the UN, in 2019, about 10 million people suffered from tuberculosis. In the same year, there were about 229 million cases of malaria globally and nearly 409,000 fatalities. Data from WHO indicates that there are more than 37 million people living with HIV – and of that number, 25 million are in Africa. 

Although great improvements have occured in the reduction of these diseases in the last two decades, there is much that remains to be done. To attain the target of ending these infectious diseases by 2030, there is a great need for better information and adequate medical resources – including vaccinations, ARVs, and clean water. 

If you’re wondering how you can contribute to the attainment of this target by 2030, there are several options at your disposal. Careers in medicine, pharmacy, nursing, food science, and public health are a great way to go.

Target 4: Promote Mental Health and Reduce Non-Communicable Diseases

In our modern world, mental illnesses are becoming increasingly common and severe. A report by WHO shows that between 2007 and 2017, there was a 13 percent increase in mental illness and conditions caused by drug use. Suicide is reported to be the second leading cause of death among 15 to 29 year olds. Another report by WHO shows that non-communicable diseases such as heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes cause around 41 million deaths per year. 77 percent of all these deaths take place in developing countries. 

In most African countries, there is plenty of stigma around mental illness, and if this target is to be achieved, there is an urgent need to raise awareness about the nature and treatment of conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Diseases such as cancer and diabetes can be better managed through change in lifestyle choices to include healthier diet, more physical activity, and early detection. Some professions through which you can help in the advancement of this target include psychiatry, psychology, nutrition, and medicine. 

Target 5: Prevention and Treatment of Drug Abuse

A report by WHO indicates that around 3.3 million deaths occur every year due to alcohol abuse and that around 15 million people suffer from disorders related to drug use. In 2017 alone, the use of tobacco was estimated to cause almost 8 million deaths. In Africa, alcohol and cannabis are the most abused drugs. Drug abuse leads to severe health problems that include liver cirrhosis, kidney problems, and respiratory diseases. 

In developing countries, there is a dire need for rehabilitation programs to help people who are addicted to drugs. To contribute to the reduction of drug and substance abuse, there are many professions you can choose to pursue, for example substance abuse counselor, law enforcement officer, community health advocate, pharmacy, among others. 

Target 6: Reduction of Traffic Accidents

It is estimated that every year, about 1.3 million people die from traffic accidents. 93 percent of these deaths occur in developing countries. Among children and young adults, traffic accidents are the leading cause of death. By 2030, the UN aims to curtail these fatalities by at least 50 percent. 

In most African countries, a chief cause of road accidents is poor roads and vehicles that are unroadworthy. If you wish to contribute in the attainment of this target, some common professions you can pursue include working as a traffic police officer, a civil engineer, a nurse, an emergency room doctor, among others. 

Target 7: Universal Access to Reproductive Care and Family Planning

Access to proper contraception is essential because it allows families to determine the number of children they want to have and in what frequency. Contraceptive products also help reduce unplanned pregnancies in both young women and older women who are at a higher risk of experiencing reproductive complications. According to WHO, in the year 2017, more than 214 million women around the world don’t have access to family planning products even though they are in dire need of them. 

With better access to family planning products, developing countries will be able to manage rapid population growth. This will hopefully contribute to the reduction of related problems such as poverty and poor education. If you intend to contribute to the achievement of this target, careers such as midwifery, nursing, and medicine are great to pursue. 

Target 8: Achieve Universal Health Coverage

Medical bills can be distressing. According to data from WHO, about 100 million people fall into extreme poverty every year because they do not have health coverage. Having universal health coverage means being able to access health services when needed without facing financial difficulties. 

This is particularly important in African countries where proper medical care can be highly unaffordable. Professions that contribute to increase in universal health coverage include leadership in health equity, finance, insurance, and public health. 

Target 9: Reduce Illnesses and Deaths from Hazardous Chemicals and Pollution

While chemicals are essential in the modern world, if not managed properly, they can lead to disastrous consequences. Some chemicals have been noted to cause diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular complications. Solid waste, air pollution, and water pollution are all crucial problems in the world today. As cities expand and as the world becomes more industrialized, the number of chemical pollutants that find their way into human bodies has increased dramatically. 

To reduce the diseases and fatalities caused by harmful chemicals, there is an urgent need for keeping vigilance on how we manage industrial waste and the millions of chemicals that we produce every day. If you would like to contribute to the achievement of this target, the best career paths you can pursue include chemical engineering, environmental studies, pharmacy, industrial chemistry, among others. 

Target 10: Implementation of  WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Compiled in 2003, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control aims to reduce the demand for tobacco products around the world. So far, it has 168 countries as signatories. The countries that have agreed to the objectives set forth in this treaty are expected to embrace measures that reduce the consumption of tobacco, including educating the public about its negative health effects, regulating the contents in tobacco products, and regulating the advertising of cigarettes and other tobacco products. If you’re curious about some professions that you can pursue to assist in the attainment of this goal, you may consider working with government departments that deal with public health. 

Target 11: Support Development of and Access to Vaccines and Essential Medicines

Preventive medicine has saved millions of lives in the last few decades. Thanks to polio and smallpox vaccines, the prevalence of such diseases around the world is now extremely low. However, there are many other diseases that still pose a menace to humanity, including HIV/AIDS, malaria, and ebola. Research, development, and easy access to vaccines and essential medicines is a crucial part of the SDG agenda. For the developing world, which includes most countries in Africa, easy access to essential medicines is critical. 

If you intend to contribute in the achievement of this target, professions such as biological research, pharmacy, and public health are good places to begin. Both private and public organizations, for example the Gates Foundation and UNICEF, are actively supporting governments in this area. These organizations are excellent places to work if you hope to contribute to this target. 

Target 12: Support the Development of Health Workforce in Developing Countries 

In the developing world, the number of professionals in the health workforce is low and public hospitals are not adequately equipped. For this reason, it is significantly more challenging to deal with unexpected diseases such as Covid-19 and ebola. The training and development of the health workforce is an essential part of the SDG 3 agenda. To assist in the attainment of this goal, you can consider careers in public policy, medicine, teaching, health advocacy, among others. 

Target 13: Improve Early Detection of Global Health Risks

Detecting global health risks early is critical in preventing unnecessary suffering. Covid-19 has shown how dangerous poor detection of public health risks can be. Countries that did not adopt strict measures experienced high rates of mortality whereas places like Australia and New Zealand had remarkably low rates of infection and fatalities. For most developing nations, there is an urgent need for developing the necessary infrastructure to enable early detection of diseases. For this reason, this target forms an important part of the SDG 3 goal. If you’re wondering how you might help in the attainment of this target by 2030, you can pursue careers in public health, global health, and medical research. 


While some high-income countries have attained many of the targets outlined above, the majority of the developing world still has a long way to go. As you can see from the data cited, developing nations require committed and skilled workforce to help them achieve these targets by 2030 as stipulated in the SDG agenda. 

As a student or a young professional who is keen to give back to your community, you have an important role to play in ensuring the attainment of these targets. While we have briefly mentioned some professions you can pursue to help in supporting these targets, check out our next article to learn more about the professions you can pursue to help in the advancement of Sustainable Development Goal 3. 


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