Adopted in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals are 17 ambitious objectives seeking to improve health and wellness of people and planet. Tackling a range of challenges including education, health, and climate change, the SDGs aim to build a better future for all.
SDG 3 seeks to ensure health and well-being for all, at every stage of life – and a strong health workforce is critical to reaching this goal. But the current shortage of health workers around the world threatens not only SDG 3, but also other goals that aim to improve other aspects of life.
SDG 1 aims to end global poverty, in all forms, by 2030. More than 700 million people still live in extreme poverty and struggle to meet their most basic needs like health and education. Yet without a strong health workforce, we will not be able to sustain potential economic and employment gains. Health is an essential precursor for prosperity by advancing societal cohesion and resilience and setting the fertile ground in which poverty eradication efforts can be rooted and sustained.
Investing in the health workforce provides jobs. Investing just 2 percent of GDP in education, health, and social services could increase overall employment by 2.4-6.1%, with women projected to gain 59-70% of new jobs from this investment. In addition, health investments create indirect job opportunities through infrastructure and water-related services, and can provide important job opportunities in rural areas.
Moreover, returns on investment in health are estimated to be 9 to 1, and around one quarter of growth between 2000 and 2011 in low-income and middle-income countries is estimated to have resulted from improvements to health.
Last week, a variety of stakeholders gathered in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly and to discuss the path forward to achieving the SDG. Individuals and organizations from around the world came together to find ways to reach these audacious targets by 2030. As we reflect on the past week and look toward the future, it’s essential to prioritize investments in the health workforce as their strength is central to achieving all SDGs – including and beyond Goal 3.