Sustainable Development Goals

Original Editor - Clara Hildt

Top Contributors - Wendy Walker, Naomi O'Reilly, Vidya Acharya, Kim Jackson, Rachael Lowe and Oyemi Sillo  

Definition[edit | edit source]

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, are part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development[1]. Ongoing from its implementation in 2015, the goals universally aim to “mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind”[1].

Figure.1 Sustainable Development Goals

Development of the Goals[edit | edit source]

The concept of sustainability was first defined in the Brundtland Commission’s report Our common future in 1987. It presented a new concept of development, a “Global Agenda for Change”, which should “ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”[2]. It became a very successful approach, internationally influencing economic, social, and environmental issues[3].

The latest outcome is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was developed after the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 and adopted by world leaders at a UN summit in September 2015 (New York)[1][4].

The Millennium Development Goals were a predecessor of the SDGs[5]. However, the SDG go further than the Millennium Development Goals did before, and target not only low-income countries but all countries[1].

PP sdgs-food-azote.jpg

Presentation of the Goals[edit | edit source]

Key elements of sustainable development are economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection, all of which are addressed by the 17 SDGs and are interconnected with each other.[1] The global indicator framework includes specific targets and indicators for each goal. As an example, see an extract from SDG 3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages”.[6] For further information, visit

PP UN SDG3.png

Monitoring Progress[edit | edit source]

The SDGs and its 169 targets are not legally binding. It is the responsibility of each country to fulfil the agenda, and to collect data for follow-up and review. Progress is monitored by a set of global indicators[1]. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation offers a tool to visualize the progress towards achieving health-related SDGs, which is here demonstrated at the example of Sweden:

PP SDG Sweden.png

Relevance for Physiotherapists[edit | edit source]

The idea of sustainability is driven by similar values as the concept of health protection and enhancement. Improvements in sustainability are linked to improvements in health. Health promotion, similarly as environmental protection, is about the prevention of damage.[7] According to the World Physiotherapy, the SDGs “provide an opportunity for physical therapists to demonstrate their contribution to sustainable global development”.[8]

Although only Goal 3, “Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages”, has a direct link to the profession, others are of high relevance for physiotherapists as well. Catherine Sykes, the WCPT’s Professional Policy Consultant states: “Physical therapists should consider their roles in support of the goals addressing inclusive economic growth and infrastructure and reducing inequality. […] These specifically concern people with disabilities and their contribution to societies”.[7]

Here is an interview with Joakim Larsson, Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Gothenburg, about the UN Sustainable Development Goal number 3: Good Health and Well-being:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 United Nations. The Sustainable Development Agenda. 2017 [cited 2017 07.12.]; Available from:
  2. World Commision on Environmnet and Development, Our Common Future. 1987.
  3. United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. Sustainable Development - concept and action. 2017 [cited 2017 07.12.]; Available from: .
  4. United Nations. United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015. 2017 [cited 2017 07.12.]; Available from:
  5. United Nations. Sustainable Development. 2017 [cited 2017 07.12.]; Available from:
  6. United Nations. Sustainable Development Goal 3. 2017 [cited 2017 09.12.]; Available from:
  7. 7.0 7.1 Guidott, T.L., Health and Sustainability: An Introduction. 2015, Oxford Scholarship Online.
  8. World Confederation for Physical Therapy. New UN agenda provides an opportunity for physical therapists. 2017 [cited 2017 07.12.]; Available from:
  9. Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development. Joakim Larsson - University of Gothenburg. Available from:[last accessed 30/10/20]