How to meet the health needs of the present without compromising the health of future generations

Already in 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development launched the term “sustainable development” in the report “Our common future” (commonly known as the “Brundtland Report”). It defined “sustainable development” as a development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Despite many decades of global efforts to promote sustainable development; most recently through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Agenda, progress is alarmingly slow. The COVID pandemic and the effects of the associated lockdowns/restrictions on societies now present an immense challenge to sustainable development. In fact, COVID19 has not only brought health inequities to the fore, but has deepened them and made UN’s Agenda 2030 all the more important and urgent, as we claim in a recent article in Nature Medicine. This should profoundly affect the way we structure and frame international collaborations in the realms of medicine and health.

The current pandemic offers an opportunity to rethink and accelerate the work to fulfil the 2030 Agenda.

At the core

For this to happen we should put “sustainable health” at the core of the discourse. Sustainable health has the potential to further the 2030 Agenda through a multisectoral approach, that considers not only the needs of people of today, but also those of tomorrow. All people, regardless of where they live should be able to fulfill their health needs today, without compromising the possibilities of future generations to do the same.

You can hear me present the concept of sustainable health at the regional meeting of World health summit in Uganda on 28th of June 2021. I intend to discuss how this approach can be used to tackle complex health challenges of today and tomorrow, specifically in Africa and explicitly within the framework of the SDGs.

Not enough

It is not enough to discuss and rethink concepts. Concrete actions, in collaborations based on trust, innovation and reciprocity are needed. To this end, Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University in Uganda have leveraged their long-standing partnership in research and education to be key players in advancing sustainable development.

Together, we recently established the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health which aims to investigate and promote new ways of operationalizing a holistic and sustainable take on health in the 21st century. In many ways this is a direct follow-up of our own strategy that says that KI shall strive for a better health “for all”, implying also future generations. We can already see potentials for substantial impact. Sida and the Swedish Institute are currently funding several of the Center’s capacity development projects. Among other things, these projects aim to strengthen the capacity of public sector officials to contribute to innovation in the their sectors and to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

If you are interested in following the work of the Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Health, you are more than welcome to join the online launch on the 16th of September 2021. Bookmark this page, which will be updated with more information in the coming months.


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