Opportunities for Physical Therapists Among the New United Nations Agenda

The United Nations has set 17 new Sustainable Development Goals to fight inequality, end poverty, improve health and tackle climate change.  The Sustainable Development Goals, otherwise known as the Global Goals, build on the Millennium Development Goals(MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. The new target for these goals is 2030 and physical therapists can play a role in helping to obtain these goals:

The 17 goals are to:

  1. End poverty 
  2. End hunger and improve nutrition
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education
  5. Achieve gender equality 
  6. Ensure availability of water and sanitation 
  7. Ensure access to affordable and sustainable energy
  8. Promote sustained and inclusive economic growth
  9. Build resilient infrastructure and sustainable industry
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production 
  13. Combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans
  15. Protect and promote sustainable use of ecosystems
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies 
  17. Revitalise the global partnership for sustainable development

UN sustainable development goals

Goal number 3, ensure healthy lives and promote well-being at all ages, is the obvious place for us to contribute. However we are well placed to contribute to other goals, for example we can consider goal 4 in our education delivery, include nutritional advice in lifestyle consultations as part of goal 2.

The WHO wishes to decrease the number of traffic injuries and deaths by 50% by the year 2020. Physical therapists can play a key role in educating the population about prevention by use of helmets, seat belts, driving sober, not texting while driving, etc.  Tobacco control is also a target of the WHO within all countries. Education regarding tobacco use related illnesses will play a key in this goal.  Additionally increasing the health care work force and retaining them will be key in developing countries.

Catherine Skyes, the WCPT’s Professional Policy Consultant states “the new goals provide an opportunity for physical therapists to demonstrate their contribution to sustainable global development. She pointed out that although only one of the 17 goals refers directly to health and wellbeing, others are also extremely relevant to the profession.”

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