Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and their implementation: A national global framework for health, development and equity needs a systems approach at every level

Br Med Bull. 2017 Dec 1;124(1):81-90. doi: 10.1093/bmb/ldx031.


Introduction: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of global goals for fair and sustainable health at every level: from planetary biosphere to local community. The aim is to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity, now and in the future.

Sources of data: The UN has established web-sites to inform the implementation of the SDGs and an Inter-Agency and Expert Group on an Indicator Framework. We have searched for independent commentaries and analysis.

Areas of agreement: The goals represent a framework that is scientifically robust, and widely intuitive intended to build upon the progress established by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There is a need for system wide strategic planning to integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions into policy and actions.

Areas of controversy: Many countries have yet to understand the difference between the MDGs and the SDGs, particularly their universality, the huge potential of new data methods to help with their implementation, and the systems thinking that is needed to deliver the vision. The danger is that individual goals may be prioritized without an understanding of the potential positive interactions between goals.

Growing points: There is an increasing understanding that sustainable development needs a paradigm shift in our understanding of the interaction between the real economy and quality of life. There would be many social, environmental and economic benefits in changing our current model.

Areas timely for developing research: We need to develop systems wide understanding of what supports a healthy environment and the art and science of making change.

Keywords: global goals; global health; implementation; sustainable development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Global Health*
  • Goals
  • Health Equity
  • Humans
  • Program Development
  • Quality of Life
  • Social Responsibility
  • Systems Analysis
  • United Nations