SDG#3 Good Health and Well-Being

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, and a mental-health epidemic in the UK, physical and mental health and well-being have never been so topical

In February, the focus is on ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, everywhere, and at all ages. Another vital pillar of sustainable development, well-being and good health must be prioritised for society can prosper. In this piece of the SDG x UCL x Volunteering Column, you will be introduced to why health and well-being are central issues globally, what UCL is doing to further SDG#3, and how you can help by volunteering for one of our charity partners.

SDG#3 Good Health and Well-Being: spotlighted by the pandemic

The Covid-induced global health crisis illustrates just how much poor health can devastate the entire population – human suffering intensified, the global economy was destabilised, and the lives of many was fundamentally uprooted. Pre-pandemic, global health was blooming with life expectancy increasing, and child, as well as maternal mortality reducing year by year. There is nevertheless a long way to go, and as with many SDGs, the pandemic is a wake-up call for SDG#3 too. Healthcare disruptions could set us back decades in health improvements globally and immunisation programmes for children in many countries have already been halted.

We must ensure everyone’s equal access to proper healthcare services by investing in health systems, sanitation, hygiene, and the training of physicians. We must be more prepared for a potential next global health crisis starting with increased access. Currently, less than half of the population is covered by essential healthcare services. It goes without saying that societal participation will be largely dependent on one’s health and ability. Healthy people translate to healthy societies and economies.

Health issues are multitude – from maternal and child mortality to communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or malaria – all preventable, yet still spreading. Too many for the 21st century die before the age of 5, and mostly of preventable causes. More importantly, 4 out of 5 of such fatalities happen in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. These children are 15 times more likely to be affected than their Western counterparts – inequality in healthcare must be addressed, loud and clear.

The pandemic is much more than a health crisis. It requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response, matching the resolve and sacrifice of frontline health workers.

United Nations

UCL and Good Health and Well-Being

As with many SDGs, UCL is contributing with research and tangible policy solutions to further the cause of Good Health and Well-Being. Recently, UCL scientists have been working to combat the TB and HIV epidemics in South Africa. Scientists from UCL affiliated with Africa Health Research Institute are producing research and designing interventions to prevent the spread of the disease too often resulting in death in the absence of antiretroviral treatment. Additionally, stations are being set up across the region to screen people's health. Breaking stigma, and making sure people are properly screened and referred to public health officials is among the most important things when it comes to stopping the spread of such diseases.

According to the UN, immunisation is the best way to save lives and improve global health and well-being. UCL-based biochemical engineers have teamed up with vaccinologists to create a place (Vax-Hub) for the economic and efficient manufacturing of vaccines. In support of Target 3.B of SDG#3, ‘Support research, development and universal access to affordable vaccines and medicines’, the Hub utilises the newest technology and knowledge in genetics, cell biology, engineering, and manufacturing to allow for the quick and low-cost development of vaccines for all - most importantly, for those who need them most in low- and middle-income countries.

Read about other Health and Well-being related UCL involvement here.

Support a Goal 3 Charity

Before committing to anything, repeat the mantra of the last 2 years: by looking after yourself, you look after others. Start by protecting your own health and that of those around you. Get vaccinated and encourage others to do so. Disseminate vital information about immunisation, and the detrimental effects of infectious diseases. Once masked up and healthy, get volunteering with one of our Community Members to directly affect the direction of change.

3.4. Reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote mental health

Walk the Walk is the UK’s largest grant-making breast cancer charity raising both funds for and awareness of breast cancer causes. Moreover, they do important work to encourage and empower women and men to look after their health and well-being. Through volunteering at their MoonWalk event, you will be a part of a project that has raised over £133m in funds to research breast cancer causes and treatment, as well as to support those battling the condition. The MoonWalk is quite a special event that takes place during the night, and across London. Support the charity, and participants, decorate bras, and exercise, all while raising millions of pounds for cancer research.

Target 3.4 encompasses another vital component to wellbeing: mental health.

The pandemic shed light and contributed a great amount to the growing mental health problems in our societies. Social isolation has affected the young, as well as the elderly. With Age UK, as a Wellbeing Volunteer, you can contribute to the most vulnerable age group feeling less alone and more hopeful during this difficult time. Some will just thank you for your thoughtfulness, others might entertain you with great stories, and all you have to do is listen! If empathy is your strong suit, this role is for you – ring up a few of Age UK Islington’s clients every week and ask that much needed ‘How are you really doing?’ question. It might surprise you how good it is for your own wellbeing to check on someone else’s.

If you fancy something more active, Mind in Camden is looking for Healthy Mind Activities Volunteers to lead small sessions ranging from physical activities to storytelling workshops to museum visits – pandemic permitting. The Mind brings the people of Camden together to make sure everyone has a place where they feel part of a community, and where they can belong. The immediate positive effect this might have on anyone’s mental wellbeing is unimaginable!

3.7 By 2030, ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information and education, and the integration of reproductive health into national strategies and programmes.

Student-Led Project Sexpression is a grassroot UCL organisation, part of the wider charity Sexpression UK. They organise to educate the next generation about sex, relationships, sexual health, and to break down the stigma and taboo around the issues surrounding sexual health. Not only that, but they ensure that the information that is disseminated is judgement-free and inclusive, as well as digestible. Sessions led by student volunteers revolve around topics such as safe sex and contraception, STIs and testing, as well as bodily changes, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Information is the first step towards eradicating the spread of STIs and STDs, and empowering the next generation to make knowledgeable choices when it comes to contraception or family planning thereby giving them control over their lives. Email [email protected] to get involved!

As restrictions are slowly easing, we must not forget where we came from. So many before me said that our ‘normal’ was unsustainable, and so let us learn from the pandemic! Good Health and Well-Being for all, everywhere, and across all ages has never been so prevalent in our lifetime. Get involved in the recovery of our society into one that is compassionate, thoughtful, equal, and provides access to vital healthcare services for all. Through volunteering and touching a few lives within your community each week, you will start the wave of momentum needed to fight both the physical and mental health crises of our time.

Written by Zsofia Bekker, Student Administrative Assistant