The Lancet: Monitoring the health-related Sustainable Development Goals

27 January, 2020

Dear HIFA colleagues,

Since 2018 HIFA has been advocating for inclusion of access to healthcare information as an indictor for the SDGs. We are especially grateful to HIFA members Geoff Royston and Chis Zielinski, who have led these efforts on our behalf, notably including participation at the seventh meeting of the UN Inter-agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goal Indicators (IAEG-SDG) in 2018, where Geoff spoke at the plenary on the case for adding essential healthcare information to the SDG indicators. The full report can be found here:

As we continue to adovcate, we monitor progress on the health-related Sustainable Development Goals (HRSDGs) more generally. This recent paper in The Lancet provides a valuable overview:

CITATION: Viewpoint| volume 395, issue 10219, p240-246, january 18, 2020

Monitoring the health-related Sustainable Development Goals: lessons learned and recommendations for improved measurement

Samira Asma et al

The Lancet 2019



The UN General Assembly launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, 2015. The original global SDG framework included 17 goals, 169 targets, and 232 unique indicators.2 Of these, 12 goals, 33 targets, and 57 indicators have been identified as health-related SDGs (HRSDGs), that is, pertaining to health outcomes, health services, and well-established environmental, occupational, behavioural, and metabolic risks. The scope of health in the SDGs is much broader than in the Millennium Development Goals, spanning from maternal and child health and infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, injuries, risk factors, and health-system functions. Regular monitoring of the HRSDGs is important for fostering a shared notion of accountability for results, identifying important gaps in resources and rates of progress, and taking into account emerging challenges that can influence the trajectory of progress. Regular monitoring and accountability will be essential to sustain policy focus and funding for the broad and complex HRSDG agenda...

In this Viewpoint, we examine why HRSDG results can differ so much across these empirical monitoring efforts and make recommendations on moving towards more standardised, universal assessments...

Drawing from previous monitoring efforts by WHO and the GBD collaboration, we identified 57 HRSDG indicators that (1) either are or directly relate to health outcomes and risks, health services and interventions, or health system needs and capacities (eg, indicator 3.d.1; international health regulations capacity and health emergency preparedness, indicator 17.19.2c; well certified deaths); and (2) have been established as health priorities by countries via international agendas or agencies (appendix pp 1–4).


Our analysis of monitoring of the HRSDGs by national governments, WHO, the World Bank, the GBD collaboration, and others suggests some concrete steps forward to improve the timeliness, reliability, and validity of measurements...

[1] Strengthening national data collection capabilities...

[2] Data processing standards...

[3] Regularly updated best practice guidance on data synthesis...

[4] Enhanced transparency guidelines...

[5] Full global and national implementation of GATHER... [a much-needed WHO-led tool towardstransparency and validity of HRSDG reporting]


Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: