National Consultation on Road to Sustainable Development Goals

9-10 February 2016, New Delhi

WHO Country Office for India played an active role in the ‘National Consultation on Road to Sustainable Development Goals' organized by the Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS), National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog), Government of India and United Nations.

The focus of the two-day consultation was on the vital inter-connected sectors of Health and Education.

Dr Bibek Debroy, Member of the NITI Aayog opened the consultation by underscoring the immense importance of health in the national and state-level development agenda

In his remarks, Mr Yuri Afanasiev, the UN Resident Coordinator said, “Health and education are both the drivers of the SDGs for India, and that the success in meeting the two goals will also address challenges of equitable human development and sustainable, inclusive economic growth and contribute to gender empowerment.”

The main objectives of the deliberations were to initiate the national dialogue and to consult the states for jointly exploring potential strategies for implementation and measurement of the SDG agenda.

Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative to India chaired a session on Promotion of Wellness through Healthy Ecosystem.

Opening the session, Dr Bekedam reflected on the lessons learnt from MDGs that could be helpful in achieving the ambitious and inclusive agenda of SDGs over the next 15 years.

Dr Bekedam highlighted: “Neither the economic benefits of good health nor the direct consequences of ill health were sufficiently understood by policy makers or captured by MDGs.”

A case in point is that an estimated 50 – 60 million Indians slip into poverty every year in India as a result of paying their health bills. Out-of-pocket expenditure is the single most cause for people going into poverty.

“The unprecedented scope of SDGs provides immense opportunity to bring health at the centre of economic growth agenda, which is PM Modi’s topmost priority. Universal Health Coverage (UHC), which is an explicit target under SDG-3, can act as an umbrella to guide and inform SDG goals in health,” he said.

The panel discussion and deliberations focused on the following issues related to ensuring healthy lives and promoting wellbeing of all by 2030:

  • Inter-connectedness of SDGs
  • Role of sanitation, water management, clean air and water
  • Public health management and community health care; addressing issues of vulnerable groups
  • Strategies for management of lifestyle diseases
  • Role of the community

In the deliberations, Dr Bekedam reiterated UN’s commitment to support the government move towards the achievement of SDGs, in particular SDG Goal 3, “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, to realize right to health and leave no one behind to create the world we want.”

In his concluding remarks, Dr Bekedam put forth a summary and few recommendations for India to progress towards sustainable development in health:

  • Position health high on the national and state agenda and invest in health as it is the cornerstone for economic growth of the nation.
  • Ensure active involvement of sectors and ministries well beyond health.
  • Focus on public health; prevention remains the best buy.
  • Accelerate the implementation of universal health coverage to reduce out-of-pocket health expenditure and prevent people going into poverty because of ill-health as health is the single most cause for people going into poverty.
  • Develop a strong monitoring and evaluation system and accountability; what gets measured gets done.