In the time of COVID-19 when the whole world is fighting a pandemic, Goal 3 seems more relevant than ever. COVID-19 does not discriminate but many of the health issues our world faces do, and we see this discrimination rampant in the countries where we work and many developing nations around the world. Goal 3 aims to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages.
Global Progress Made
Up until 2020 the UN had measured major progress in improving the health of millions of people. This progress was measured against key UN SDG indicators which looked at life expectancy, reducing maternal and child mortality and the fight against the dangerous communicable diseases. However, progress has stalled when looking at major diseases like malaria and increasing issues have arisen around non-communicable diseases and environmental health factors, which we see in many of the communities where we work.
Immunization efforts were most successful in 2017, with the highest number of children immunized than ever before, reported at 116.2 million children. This has saved millions of lives, however there were still pockets around the world where immunization coverage was very low and as such, led to outbreaks and resulted in many deaths.
As progress on Malaria has stalled since 2015, we have still seen progress of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD’s) as rates of people needing treatment from NTD’s decreased from 1.63 billion in 2015 to 1.58 billion in 2017. NTD’s are a serious threat to community health affecting, “those who live in poverty, lack adequate sanitation and are in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals—costing developing economies billions of dollars each year” (UN Stats, 2019).
Lastly, environmental health factors have played a major impact on achieving Goal 3. Essentials we take for granted in many countries, like access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services, are linked to 60% of cases of diarrhoea, 100% of parasitic worms and 16% of malnutrition cases across the world. Improving drinking water and sanitation services in areas where it’s most needed will dramatically reduce the burden from these diseases. In addition, increased air pollution levels have had an adverse impact on rate of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, being major risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
FutureSense Foundation Efforts
FutureSense Foundation programs focus on many of the challenges faced in achieving Goal 3:
– Increased education and universal access to WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene services)
– Increased education in relation to tropical disease including malaria
– Climate change and environmental health education, looking at reducing the negative impacts from environmental degradation, air pollution and plastics
In India we have partnered with four non-government schools who provide education to low income families to deliver workshops related to health. These sessions cover the basics such as hygiene, sanitation and nutrition, as well as more complex topics such as mental health; highlighting a commitment to holistic health and wellbeing. We have also recently expanded our program focus to include specialized workshops on women’s health and developmental changes for young people, which we will begin rolling out this year.
Through our school-based health workshops we are able to reach over 1500 children from approximately 1200 rural families within the Kangra District. Through this initiative we champion children to develop positive habits and become role models for their families and communities, with an aim of changing the health behaviour’ of over 5000 of our most vulnerable community members.
In addition to our workshops the Foundation is committed to supporting our communities to access the necessary infrastructure and resources that they need to achieve positive health outcomes. Recently the Foundation was able to fund the construction of a hand washing station at our partner school Neel Kamal, to enable students to practice the healthy hygiene habits that they are learning about.
In Peru, nutrition has been a key focus of the Foundation, particularly education around healthy and less healthy foods, and knowledge about what each food contains. The most recent volunteer groups who supported the Foundation over the summer, planted fruit trees, and vegetable gardens for a number of our partner schools, which will help to provide fresh fruit and vegetables that the students and staff can utilise
There was also a big focus over the past season on hygiene, proper hand-washing practices, germs, and the “dab” sneeze.
In 2019 we were able to reach 399 students with our school-based health workshops. With a focus on WASH, nutrition and NCDs, these workshops pass on important skills and knowledge that will help these students and their families to lead healthier lives. We aim to expand these workshops to new schools in 2020/2021, allowing us to reach more children and their families, and make a positive impact in healthy behaviours in the Sacred Valley.
At FutureSense we recognise the part that many organisations around the globe play in contributing towards the UN SDG’s and in this case, improving good health and wellbeing outcomes in vulnerable communities. There is no doubt that the impact of COVID-19 will be extensive and devastating and will push many countries back on their Health and Wellbeing progress. We’re confident that by working together and closely with our community partners, we can play our part in supporting those who need it, during this tough time and continue to see progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 3.