In September 2015, the UN General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGS specify 17 universal goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators (critics worry about the unwieldy list). The SDGs replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which expired in September 2015. Health is a core part of the SDGs.
Lancet has recently (21 September, 2016) published a baseline analysis of 33 health-related indicators.
All the indices are scaled from 0 (worst observed value for 1990-2015) to 100 (best observed value for the same period). In 2015, the median value of the overall health-related SDG index was 59.3 ranging from 85.5 (Iceland) to 20.4 (Central African Republic). There is also good news globally. The value of the health-related SDG index has increased by approximately eight points between 1990 and 2015.
As expected, wealthy nations are healthy nations. However, as the Lancet study notes, ‘…some patterns emerged contrary to what might have been expected’. The United States is ranked 28th, and below Greece, a nation struggling to cope with externally imposed anti-austerity measures. The unsatisfactory US ranking might be attributed to poor performance in maternal mortality, alcohol consumption and mortality due to interpersonal violence, self-harm, suicide and unintentional poisoning.
What the Lancet study does not highlight is the conspicuous case of Botswana. Often lauded as a development success story, and featuring prominently in Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson’s monumental study on ‘Why nations fail’ (www.amazon.com/Why-Nations-Fail-Origins-Prosperity/dp/0307719227), Botswana is a resource-rich, upper-middle income country. It is one of the very few countries in Sub Saharan Africa with such an income status. In terms of the overall health-related SDG, Botswana is ranked 133 and lies below low-income Timor-Leste. At least from a health perspective, Botswana still has a long way to go.