Progress on Sustainable Development Goal indicators in 707 districts of India: a quantitative mid-line assessment using the National Family Health Surveys, 2016 and 2021

Elsevier, The Lancet Regional Health - Southeast Asia, 2023, 100155, ISSN 2772-3682
S.V. Subramanian, Mayanka Ambade, Akhil Kumar, Hyejun Chi, William Joe, Sunil Rajpal, Rockli Kim


India has committed itself to accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Meeting these goals would require prioritizing and targeting specific areas within India. We provide a mid-line assessment of the progress across 707 districts of India for 33 SDG indicators related to health and social determinants of health.


We used data collected on children and adults from two rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2016 and 2021. We identified 33 indicators that cover 9 of the 17 official SDGs. We used the goals and targets outlined by the Global Indicator Framework, Government of India and World Health Organization (WHO) to determine SDG targets to be met by 2030. Using precision-weighted multilevel models, we estimated district mean for 2016 and 2021, and using these values, computed the Annual Absolute Change (AAC) for each indicator. Using the AAC and targets, we classified India and each district as: Achieved-I, Achieved-II, On-Target and Off-Target. Further, when a district was Off-Target on a given indicator, we further identified the calendar year in which the target will be met post-2030.


India is not On-Target for 19 of the 33 SDGs indicators. The critical Off-Target indicators include Access to Basic Services, Wasting and Overweight Children, Anaemia, Child Marriage, Partner Violence, Tobacco Use, and Modern Contraceptive Use. For these indicators, more than 75% of the districts were Off-Target. Because of a worsening trend observed between 2016 and 2021, and assuming no course correction occurs, many districts will never meet the targets on the SDGs even well after 2030. These Off-Target districts are concentrated in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha. Finally, it does not appear that Aspirational Districts, on average, are performing better in meeting the SDG targets than other districts on majority of the indicators.


A mid-line assessment of districts' progress on SDGs suggests an urgent need to increase the pace and momentum on four SDG goals: No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3) and Gender Equality (SDG 5). Developing a strategic roadmap at this time will help India ensure success with regards to meeting the SDGs. India's emergence and sustenance as a leading economic power depends on meeting some of the more basic health and social determinants of health-related SDGs in an immediate and equitable manner.


This work was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, INV-002992.