COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals- Chapter 9: COVID-19 pandemic: The fears and hopes for SDG 3, with focus on prevention and control of noncommunicable diseases (SDG 3.4) and universal health coverage (SDG 3.8)

Elsevier, COVID-19 and the Sustainable Development Goals, 2022, Pages 211-234
Amirhossein Takian, Azam Raoofi, Hajar Haghighi

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 2015 to set the world on the path to peace, prosperity, and sustainable development. As a result of the global focus on SDGs, in particular SDG 3—ensuring a healthy life and promoting well-being for all—and its 13 targets, significant progress has been made in global health. The Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) was officially placed on the World Health Organization (WHO) agenda in 2013. Subsequently, the UNs’ SDGs incorporated SDG 3.4, based on which many countries have been developing national strategies to reduce burden of NCDs. Besides, building upon WHO’s efforts to promote universal health coverage (UHC) since 2010, SDG 3.8 with a focus on UHC was adopted, following which 75% of national health policies were developed with the aim of moving toward UHC. Almost through one-third of SDG’s pathway, the COVID-19 pandemic has been hampering global efforts to achieve the 2030 agenda. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has affected all aspects of social, political, environmental, and economic life worldwide. The crisis has made SDGs almost unlikely to reach. It has unprecedentedly interrupted the provision of and access to essential healthcare services in all settings. The situation worsened particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where preexisting health inequalities and weak health systems jeopardized control and mitigation. The disruption in the provision of healthcare services may have long-term consequences for people with NCDs, especially the most vulnerable and in need of regular long-term care. Worse still, patients with NCDs have been reported to be at higher risk for serious illness or death from COVID-19. The pandemic also reinforces the importance of UHC, the need to prioritize universal health preparedness and accelerate global efforts to build back stronger and more resilient health systems to make progress toward UHC. COVID-19 has demonstrated the fact that the health systems of many countries are not fully prepared to protect the health of their populations and reaffirmed the fact that a strong and resilient health system based on primary healthcare is the basis for effective response to the crises and a reliable platform for advances in health safety and UHC. In this chapter, we will discuss the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on achieving SDG 3 targets—with a special focus on SDG 3.4 (NCDs) and SDG 3.8 (UHC).