Intended for healthcare professionals


Accelerating achievement of the sustainable development goals

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: (Published 29 January 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i409

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  1. Ashish Jha, professor1,
  2. Ilona Kickbusch, director, Global Health Programme2,
  3. Peter Taylor, programme manager3,
  4. Kamran Abbasi, international editor4
  5. on behalf of the SDGs working group
  1. 1Harvard Global Health Institute, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
  2. 2Graduate Institute, Geneva, Switzerland
  3. 3Think Tank Initiative, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  4. 4The BMJ, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. Correspondence to: A Jha ajha{at}

A game changer in global health

In September 2015, nearly 200 nations adopted the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) as a transformative, universal framework to address three interwoven dimensions of our global existence—people, planet, and prosperity.1 They are predicated on the notion that sustainability is not just an aspiration but a necessity. However, by substantially expanding on the scope and targets of their predecessors (the millennium development goals), the SDGs have set a high bar. To achieve them, we will need collective action to create new knowledge, share and broker knowledge, and implement insights through working with many sectors and diverse global health policy stakeholders. With this in mind, 60 global health policy think tanks from around the world met in Geneva in November 2015 to explore the role that think tanks and academic institutions have in implementing the SDGs.

What will it take to achieve the SDGs related to health?

Although only SDG3 focuses primarily on health, many other development goals, including those that relate to the environment, nutrition, hunger, sustainable production and consumption, agriculture, and education, also have a big effect on health. To achieve progress on human health, countries will therefore need to commit to a broad agenda of sustainable development that acknowledges and exploits the links between different goals and targets. This provides an opportunity for systems thinking: applying an ecological perspective and implementing an …

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