The Global Goals

The Nordic Countries and SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Tracking the progress of the Nordic countries towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3

In 2015, all United Nations (UN) member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), establishing a global agenda to create a better world by 2030. This data tracker looks at Nordic countries’ progress towards achieving SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. The goal comprises 13 distinct targets.

Using the latest official data, we first explore global trends and then zoom in on the Nordic countries to make an assessment of: i) a country’s current distance to target based on the most recent data, and ii) a country’s likelihood of achieving the target by 2030 based on current trends. The Nordic countries are classified into one of five categories for each target:

  • Met: The country has already met the 2030 target.
  • On track: The country has not yet met the target but is on track to do so by 2030.
  • Short distance: The country has not met the target and is not projected to do so but is close to achieving it. This category also applies when the country currently meets the target but is projected to move away from it.
  • Long distance but progressing: The country is far from the target but is making progress towards it.
  • Long distance and not progressing: The country is far from the target and is not making progress towards reaching it.

The assessment follows the methodology developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for monitoring country level progress towards the SDGs. Note that while we adhere to the OECD methodology, the OECD is not affiliated with the analysis and calculations presented here.

Further details on the methodology:

Target levels in 2030: If the UN’s SDG framework does not explicitly set target levels for 2030, the analysis follows the target end-values chosen by the OECD as relevant for OECD countries, following either the level achieved by the best performing countries in the OECD or with reference to international agreements.

Distance to target: A country’s distance to the target is measured in OECD standardized units. A short distance is defined as less than 0.5 units away, and a long distance is more than 0.5 units away. Values are normalized based on the most recent observations for OECD countries.

Trend assessment: Historical data for a country is analyzed for a clear increasing or decreasing trend. The Spearman rank correlation coefficient between observed data and time is calculated. A coefficient greater than +0.2 and significant at the 10% level indicates a clear increasing trend, while a coefficient less than -0.2 and significant at the 10% level indicates a clear decreasing trend. No assessment is made unless a minimum of three years of data within a five-year period is available for a country on a specific indicator.

Likelihood of reaching target in 2030: Monte Carlo simulations are used to estimate the likelihood of reaching target levels by 2030. 10,000 simulations are performed per country for each target. A country is classified as having a high likelihood of reaching the target if more than 75% of the randomized projections meet the target level. If fewer than 75% of the projections meet the target, the likelihood is classified as low.

Please be aware that this analysis is continually evolving. We monitor for new data daily from the UN and OECD databases, and when new data is released for a target, we update the country assessment accordingly. As a result, the text and visualisations may change at any time. Consult the changelog at the end of the page for details on revisions and updates.

Target 3.1

By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births

Indicators:

3.1.1Maternal mortality ratio
3.1.2Proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel

Global trends

3.1.1. Maternal mortality

The latest figures from 2020 show that the overall global maternal mortality ratio was above 200 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality ratio has declined over the last decades, and the level in 2020 was almost a third lower than in 2000. Still, based on the current trends, with no significant decline since 2017, the target of reducing the ratio to no less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 is not expected to be reached.

Although all regions have seen a decline in the maternal mortality ratio, the level in Sub-Saharan Africa significantly higher than in other regions, with 560 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. Europe and Northern America as well as Oceania are the only regions below the 2030 threshold of 70 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.

Note that the regional groupings used in the visualisation above (and all other visualisations on this page with regional data) follow the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

3.1.2. Delivery coverage

Globally, 86% of births in 2022 were assisted by skilled health personnel, an share that has risen significantly over the last two decades.

All regions have seen an increase in the share of births attended by skilled health personnel. As with the maternal mortality ratio, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most challenging situation, with only 70% of births attended by skilled health personnel in 2022.

The Nordics

The maternal mortality ratio is very low in the Nordic countries, with the most recent data for 2020 showing all countries below at 8 or lower maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. This is below the 2030 target, and also below the average for the Europe and North America region.

Almost all births in the Nordics are attended by skilled health personnel, and delivery coverage rates range between 95 and 100. However, Denmark and Iceland have seen their coverage rate decline slightly since 2000. With the target operationalised by the OECD at 97% coverage rates, Iceland has currently met the target but trending away, while Denmark is at a long distance to target (more than 0.5 OECD standard deviations away) and trending away from it. Both countries have a low likelihood of achieving full coverage (97%) in 2030 based on current trends.

Looking at the progress made towards the two indicators combined, only Finland, Norway and Sweden have met the target and are on track to achieve it in 2030.

Target 3.2

By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births

Indicators:

3.2.1Under-5 mortality rate
3.2.2Neonatal mortality rate

Global trends

3.2.1. Under-5 mortality rate

Progress has been made in reducing child mortality worldwide. In 2021, the global average was 38 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 76 in 2000.

Reductions in the under-5 mortality rate have happened across all regions, with many of the most affected regions seeing significant reductions.

3.2.2. Neo-natal mortality rate

The world is also making progress toward reducing the neonatal mortality rate. From 2000 to 2021 it has fallen from 25 to 18 deaths per 1,000 live births. To reach the target of reducing the neonatal mortality rate to 12 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2030, the world is dependent on further progress being made in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central and Southern Asia.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have seen declining rates child and neo-natal mortality, and all are currently below the global targets of 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births. The targets for 2030 have thus already been achieved.

Target 3.3

By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases

Indicators:

3.3.1Number of new HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected population
3.3.2Tuberculosis incidence per 100,000 population
3.3.3Malaria incidence per 1,000 population
3.3.4Hepatitis B incidence per 100,000 population
3.3.5Number of people requiring interventions against neglected tropical diseases

Global trends

While progress has also been made toward reducing the incidence of communicable diseases, the pace of progress is not sufficient to reach the ambitious target of ending their prevalence by 2030.

HIV

Tuberculosis

Malaria

Hepatitis B

Tropical diseases

Regionally, Sub-Saharan Africa have high incidence rates across all the communicable diseases covered in the target. Notably, significant progress has been made towards reducing HIV incidence rates in the region between 2015 and 2021.

HIV

Tuberculosis

Malaria

Hepatitis B

Tropical diseases

Importantly, in addition to the above diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on global health over the past years. WHO estimates from mid-2022 shows the full death toll from 2020 and 2021 to be around 15 million. In addition to this comes the wider impact on health systems and society as the UN points out in its 2022 SDG progress report:

Global health systems have been overwhelmed and many essential health services have been disrupted, posing major threats to progress in fighting other deadly diseases.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have low incidence rates of communicable diseases that are included in this target. (Note that due to data availability, AIDS incidence is used instead of HIV.) Prevalence rates are less than 3 per 100 000 population (the OECD set target) for both AIDS and Hepatitis B. For tubercolsis most countries have either met this target, or is on track to reach it. There is no incidence of malaria in the Nordic countries. Tropical diseases is also negligble across all countries. The combined assessment across all indicators is thus that the Nordic countries have already met this target.

AIDS

Tuberculosis

Hepatitis B

Tropical diseases

Target 3.4

By 2030, reduce by one third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being

Indicators:

3.4.1Mortality rate attributed to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease
3.4.2Suicide mortality rate

Global trends

3.4.1. Non-communicable diseases

The latest UN data from 2019 shows that the four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs), cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory disease, caused over 33 million deaths worldwide in 2019.

The mortality rate is defined as the probability of dying from any of the four main NCDs between the age of 30 and 70, and has declined slowly in recent years. From 23% in 2000, to 19% in 2015 and 18% in 2019.

Yet, the current rate of decline will not be sufficient to reach the target of reducing the mortality rate by one-third by 2030, compared to 2015 levels. This is despite all regions making some progress since 2015.

Most regions have seen declining mortality rates between 2000 and 2019. The lowest probability of dying from NCDs is in Australia and New Zealand. Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) have the highest probability and is also the only region where it has gone up since 2000.

3.4.2. Suicide rates

The second indicator for this target, the suicide mortality rate, stood at 13 deaths from suicide per 100,000 population, which decreased to 9.5 in 2015 and 9.2 in 2019. Yet, despite the decline, the progress is not sufficient to reach the target of reducing suicide mortality rates by one-third by 2030 compared to 2015 levels.

Given that the latest data is from 2019, the UN higlights in its 2022 SDG status report that:

Although the available data do not show an increase in suicide rates during the first months of the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic has had a severe impact on the mental health and well-being of people around the world. In 2020, there was an 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. 

Regionally, Europe and Northern America has highest suicide mortality rate, followed by Australia and New Zealand. The lowest level can be found in Northern Africa and Western Asia where it currently stands at almost four times as low as in Europe and Northern America.

The Nordics

For OECD-countries, the OECD has operationalised a target level of less than 7.5% probability of dying from NDCs in 2030. Currently, none of the Nordics have met this target, and there is not enough data to perform a trend assessment or future projections (avaliable data less than three datapoints within a five year period).

As regards suicide rates, the OECD has operationalised the target level at less than 3 per 100 000 persons. The latest data from 2019 shows that the Nordics are 4-5 times higher than this target, with no major progress seen since 2015. As with NCDs the avaliable data is not sufficient for an assessment of trends (a minimum of three observations within a five year period).

The combined assessment for both indicators is that all the Nordics are at long distance and not progressing towards the target.

Target 3.5

Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol

Indicators:

3.5.1Coverage of treatment interventions (pharmacological, psychosocial and rehabilitation and aftercare services) for substance use disorders
3.5.2Alcohol per capita consumption (aged 15 years and older) within a calendar year in litres of pure alcohol

Global trends

No recent data is available at a global and regional level for the first indicator on coverage of treatment interventions.

For the second indicator, alcohol consumption, data from 2019 shows that consumption globally was higher in 2019 than in 2000. Since 2015 it has declined slightly from 5.9 liters of pure alcohol per capita per year, to 5.5 liters. Still this is higher than in 2000.

Europe and Northern America have the highest consumption levels, followed by Australia and New Zealand. Consumption levels in these two regions are almost twice as high as the global average.

The Nordics

OECD data on alcohol consumption in the Nordics shows a mixed picture. The OECD has set the target at lower than 8.5 liters in 2030. Currently, all the Nordics except Denmark are below this this level. However, in Norway, Iceland and Sweden consumption levels are higher than they were in 2000 (compared to the latest year with data).

A combined assessment of both current levels and future projections based on past trends, shows that no Nordic country has a high likelihood of reaching the target in 2030. Still, they are expected to be within short distance of reaching it.

Target 3.6

By 2020, halve the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents

Indicators:

3.6.1Death rate due to road traffic injuries

Global trends

1.3 million people were killed from road injuries globally in 2019, compared to 1.15 million in 2000. Despite the absolute increase, the rate of death relative to the size of the global population has decreased over the past two decades. In 2000 it stood at 19 deaths per 100,000 population, compared to 16.7 in 2019.

This indicates that road safety has improved in light of increasing population growth and increased motorization worldwide. Yet, the target of halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic was not reached by 2020 and the target has been extended to 2030. According to the WHO, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5-29 years.

At a regional level, Europe and Northern America is the region that has made most progress toward reducing death rates caused by road traffic injuries. The highest levels are found in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have made progress towards reducing deaths from road traffic injuries. The OECD has set a benchmark of reducing death rates to 2.7 (half the median rate for OECD countries in 2015). Finland is the only country above this currently, where the level has remained stable over the past few years.

Given the above trends, all the Nordics except Finland have already met the target and are on track to staying below it in 2030.

Target 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

Indicators:

3.7.1Proportion of women of reproductive age (aged 15–49 years) who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods
3.7.2Adolescent birth rate (aged 10–14 years; aged 15–19 years) per 1,000 women in that age group

Global trends

3.7.1. Family planning needs

78% of women of reproductive age had their family planning needs met by modern contraceptive methods in 2023, an increase from 74% in 2000. No explicit target level has been set for 2030 at a global level for this indicator.

While the share has remained relatively unchanged for the last few years at a global level, it has increased significally in many regions.

3.7.2. Adolescent birth rate

The adolescent birth rate, measured as births per 1,000 adolescent women from 15-19 years, has decreased over the past two decades. The rates have declined in all regions. Note that also for this indicator, no explicit target level has been set for 2030 at a global level.

The Nordics

Data for the Nordic countries is only avaliable for the second indicator on adolescent birth rate, revealing a low abolescent fertility rate compare to other countries. The OECD has operationalised the target for member countries at 3 per 1000 women in 2030, a level of which Denmark, Norway and Sweden have already met, and Finland and Iceland are on track meet by 2030.

Target 3.8

Achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all

Indicators:

3.8.1Coverage of essential health services
3.8.2Proportion of population with large household expenditures on health as a share of total household expenditure or income

Global trends

3.8.1. Essential health services

Coverage of essential health services is measured by the WHO Universal Health Care Service Index Coverage. The index is reported on a scale from 0 to 100, where a higher score means a higher coverage. The 14 indicators that form part of the index include 1. Reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health 2. Infectious diseases 3. Noncommunicable diseases 4. Service capacity and access to essential health services.

From 2000 to 2021 the average global score has improved from 45 to 68, indicating that more people have gained access to essential services. All regions have improved their index score over this period.

3.8.2. Household expenditures on health

The latest data on household expenditures on health is from 2019, showing that already going into the pandemic, a rising share of the global population was having large out-of-pocket household expenditures on health (defined as spending more than 10% on household budget on health). The share has risen in most regions, with the largest increase in Eastern and South-Eastern Asia.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have near-universal coverage of core health services, and thus have a high score in the UHC service coverage index. Yet, as with other OECD countries, despite increasing coverage (as measured by the index) over recent years, none are on track towards a full score (defined as above 97) by 2030.

Data on household expenditure on health is insufficient for a comparative analysis (most recent data from 2010).

Target 3.9

By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination

Indicators:

3.9.1Mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution
3.9.2Mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, unsafe sanitation and lack of hygiene (exposure to unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All (WASH) services)
3.9.3Mortality rate attributed to unintentional poisoning

Global trends

3.9.1. Household and ambient air pollution

At a global level, the mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution was 105 persons per 100,000 population in 2019. The mortality rate was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (171) and lowest in Europe and Northern America (28).

3.9.2. Unsafe water and sanitation

The mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, sanitation, and lack of hygiene was at the global level of 18 persons per 100,000 population in 2019. In most regions, it was below 10 per 100,000, while it was highest in Sub-Saharan Africa (49) and Central and Southern Asia (32) in 2019.

3.9.3. Unintentional poisoning

The third indicator, mortality attributed to unintentional poisoning, has declined slightly over the past two decades. Unintentional poisoning is defined as death caused by chemicals, pesticides, kerosene, carbon monoxide and medicines, or can be the result of environmental contamination or occupational chemical exposure. Compared to 2000, all regions have lower mortality rates in the latest year available (2019).

The Nordics

The OECD has operationalised the target as lower than 3 in 100 000 mortality rate on all three indicators. Currently, all the Nordics are above this level for household and ambient pollution, according to the latest data from 2019.

For mortality attributed to unsafe water, sanitation and lack of hygiene the Nordics are closer to the target threshold of 3 per 100 000, but only Finland and Iceland are below.

OECD age-standardised rates for accidental poisoning show that none of the Nordics are below the target threshold on this indicator. Additionally, none have managed to significally reduce accidental mortality rates over the past two decades.

The combined assessment of the three indicators discussed above is that none of the Nordics are on track to reach the targets by 2030.

Target 3.a

Strengthen the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries, as appropriate

Indicators:

3.a.1Age-standardized prevalence of current tobacco use among persons aged 15 years and older

Global trends

The global average tobacco use rate has declined steadily. In 2020, about one-fifth of the global population was using tobacco. Rates have declined in all regions and were lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa (10%) in 2020.

The Nordics

The trend of declining tobacco use can also be seen in all the Nordic countries. Age-standardised rates show that the share of the population using tobacco has more than halved since 2000 in Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Yet the progress made is not sufficient to achieve the target of eradicating tobacco use by 2030.

Target 3.b

Support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health, which affirms the right of developing countries to use to the full the provisions in the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights regarding flexibilities to protect public health, and, in particular, provide access to medicines for all

Indicators:

3.b.1Proportion of the target population covered by all vaccines included in their national programme
3.b.2Total net official development assistance to medical research and basic health sectors
3.b.3Proportion of health facilities that have a core set of relevant essential medicines available and affordable on a sustainable basis

Global trends

3.b.1. Vaccine coverage

There are four types of vaccines that are tracked in the global SDG indicator framework: coverage of DTP containing vaccine, coverage of Measles containing vaccine, coverage of Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, and the HPV vaccine.

Global coverage levels of all these vaccines have been rising over the past decades. Still, on average, the world has not reached the WHO recommendation of WHO recommendation of vaccinating more than 90% of the target population against DTP, measles or pneumococcus. HPV vaccination levels stood at 12% in 2021.

DTP3

MCV2

PCV3

HPV

3.b.2. Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Data for net ODA to medical research and basic health sectors is available from 2010, showing that total net disbursements has more than doubled from 2010 to 2021.

3.b.3. Health facilities

Data for this indicator is currently not available at the global or regional level.

The Nordics

The Nordic countries have high coverage levels of the DTP3, MCV2, and PCV3 vaccines. HPV coverage is more uneven, but high compared to other countries. All in all, this SDG target is already achieved in the Nordic countries.

Data on net ODA to health per country is only considered contextual and not considered in the trend assessment.

Target 3.c

Substantially increase health financing and the recruitment, development, training and retention of the health workforce in developing countries, especially in least developed countries and small island developing States

Indicators:

3.c.1Health worker density and distribution

Global trends

There is no set target for 2030 for the indicator of health worker density. Yet, data for 2021 show large differences in healthcare worker density across regions. In Europe, there were almost 40 medical doctors per 10,000 population, in Sub-Saharan Africa only 2, and in South and South-Eastern Asia 8.

The Nordics

There is no set target for 2030, and the OECD considers the indicator of health worker density as contextual. The below visualisation details the density levels in the Nordic countries. Caution should be taken in comparing each occupational group between countries. The Nordics have a higher density of healthcare workers than the European average in all occupational groups, except pharmacists (Denmark and Iceland below the European average). Furthermore, the density levels have increased across all groups over the past two decades.

Doctors

Nurses and midwifes

Dentists

Pharmacists

Target 3.d

Strengthen the capacity of all countries, in particular developing countries, for early warning, risk reduction and management of national and global health risks

Indicators:

3.d.1International Health Regulations (IHR) capacity and health emergency preparedness
3.d.2Percentage of bloodstream infections due to selected antimicrobial-resistant organisms

Global trends

3.d.1. IHR Capacity

Since 2010, data has been collected on the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR). Under the IHR states are obliged to develop and maintain a range of minimum core capacities for potential public health events of international concern. Capacity is measured through an IHR capacity scores which as of 2022 cover 15 areas:

(1) Policy, legal and normative instruments to implement IHR; (2) IHR Coordination and National Focal Point Functions; (3) Financing; (4) Laboratory; (5) Surveillance; (6) Human resources; (7) Health emergency management (8) Health Service Provision; (9) Infection Prevention and Control; (10) Risk communication and community engagement; (11) Points of entry and border health; (12) Zoonotic diseases; (13) Food safety; (14) Chemical events; (15) Radiation emergencies.

The indicator set has been revised over the years, most recently in 2021. The below figure with the latest data shows that the current global average score (for all 15 capacities) was 64 out of 100, with Sub-Saharan Africa lowest at 48 and Australia and New Zealand highest at 87 out of 100.

3.d.2. Bloodstream infections

Data on the second indicator, bloodstream infections due to selected antimicrobial-resistant organisms, is limited to a few years. A comparison between levels in 2016 and 2020 shows a rising trend in the share of bloodstream infections due to MRSA and Escherichia coli at the global level.

The Nordics

Data for the Nordics are only available for the IHR scores, showing that all countries were above the European average (77) in 2021. However, no country was above the OECD set target of full score (level set at a score of 97).

Based on the above scores, only Norway and Sweden are within short distance to target. Tracking progress over time is difficulat due to revised frameworks for measurement of capacity, with the last revision occuring in 2021.

About the data

The data presented on global, regional, and national trends are from the UN SDG Global Database and the OECD unless otherwise stated.

Changelog

  • First released June 2022
  • Data and text update November 2022
  • Data and text update March and April 2023 following the release of new UN data

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