Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being

Measuring progress in the Nordic countries

Work in progress: This page is under active development.

This page looks at the progress made by the Nordic countries towards Sustainable Development Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.

Each section starts by analysing global and regional trends, before looking at the latest data on the Nordic countries and their progress towards the 2030 targets. The data presented is gathered from the UN Sustainable Development Goals Global Database, unless otherwise noted.

The assessment of the Nordic countries is based on a recent OECD report analysing progress made towards the SDGs in all OECD-countries. The report provides a unique methodology for comparing progress across OECD-countries, tracking recent trends as well as estimating each country’s likelihood of reaching the 2030 targets.

Overview of targets

SDG Goal 3 consist of 13 targets. Click on the targets below to start exploring the data:

3.1Reduce maternal mortality
3.2End preventable deaths under 5 years of age
3.3Fight communicable diseases
3.4Reduce mortality from non-communicable diseases and promote mental health
3.5Prevent and treat substance abuse
3.6Reduce road injuries and deaths
3.7Universal access to sexual and reproductive care, family planning and education
3.8Achieve universal health coverage
3.9Reduce illnesses and deaths from hazardous chemicals and pollution
3.aImplement the WHO framework convention on tobacco control
3.bSupport research, development and universal access to affordable vaccines and medicines
3.cIncrease health financing and support health workforce in developing countries
3.dImprove early warning systems for global health risks

Target 3.1

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


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

Global trends

A. Maternal mortality

The latest figures from 2017 show that the global overall maternal mortality ratio was 211 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The maternal mortality ratio has declined over the last decades, and the level in 2017 was 37% lower than in 2000. Still, based on the current trend, the target of reducing the ratio to no less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030 will not be reached.

Although all regions have seen a decline in the maternal mortality ratio, the level in Sub-Saharan Africa is over twice as high as the global average. 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) follows the UN regional classification for the Sustainable Development Goals.

B. Delivery coverage

Globally, 84% of births from 2015-2021 were assisted by skilled health personell, an increase from the average share between 2008-2014 and 2001-2007.

All regions have seen an increase of the share of births attended by skilled health personell, although the UN cautions in its latest SDG progress report that: "Available data does not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the disruption of services, which may reverse gains made over the past decades."

As with the maternal mortality ratio, Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most challenging situation, with only 2 of 3 births attended by skilled health personell.

The Nordics

The maternal mortality ratio is extremely low in the Nordic countries, ranging between 2-4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. The Nordics are also below the average for the Europe and North America region.

Almost all births in the Nordics are attended by skilled health personell, delivery coverage rates are between 95 and 100. However, Denmark and Iceland have seen their coverage rate decline slightly since 2000.

Looking at the progress made towards the two indicators combined, the OECD assessment gives weight to the decline in delivery coverage levels in Denmark and Iceland. Both countries are moving away from the SDG target and have a low likelihood of having full coverage in 2030 based on current trends.

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


3.2.1Under-5 mortality rate
3.2.2Neonatal mortality rate

Global trends

A. Under-5 mortality rate

Steady progress has been made in reducing child mortality (under 5 years) worldwide. In 2020, the global average was 37 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 76 in 2000. All regions have seen a decline in the under-5 mortality rate. The target of reducing the child mortality rate to 25 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030 is within reach given current trends.

B. Neo-natal mortality rate

The world is also making progress towards reducing the neonatal mortality rate. From 2000 to 2020 it has fallen from 25 to 17 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 low rates of child and neonatal mortality, and have thus already achieved the target for 2030.

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


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

Some progress has been made towards reducing the incidence of the communicable diseases listed above. However, the current progress will not be sufficient to reach the target of ending their prevalence by 2030. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest incidence rates of these communicable diseases.

Importantly, in addition to the above diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disastrous impact on global health over the past two years. As of mid-2022, it has infected more than half a billion people resulting in more than 6 million deaths, with the number of "excess deaths" directly or indirectly caused by COVID-19 is estimated to be three times as high. In addition to this comes the wider impact on health systems and society as the UN points out in its 2022 SDG (preliminary) progress report:

The pandemic has severely disrupted essential health services, shortened life expectancy, and exacerbated inequities between countries and people in access to basic health services, threatening to undo years of progress in some health areas.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have low incidence rates of the communicable diseases that are included in this target. Note that due to data availability, AIDS incidence is used instead of HIV. There is no incidence of malaria in the Nordic countries.

Given the low incidence rates, the OECD estimates that there is a high likelihood that the 2030 target will be reached for the Nordic countries. However, looking at all the data combined, the trend estimate for Denmark means there is less likelihood that they will reach the target in 2030, specifically due to AIDS and tuberculosis trend estimates for 2030.

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


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

Global trends

The four main non-communicable diseases (NCDs), cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease, caused over 33 million deaths worldwide in 2019.

However, the mortality rate from these NCDs have been declining slowly in recent years. The mortality rate is defined as the probability of dying from any of the four main NCDs between age 30 and 70. The current rate of decline will not be sufficient to reach the target of reducing the mortality rate by one-third by 2030. While all regions have made progress since 2015, not enough progress is being made to reach the 2030 target in any region.

The second indicator for this target, suicide mortality rate, shows a similar development. Over the last years there is not enough progress made to reach the target of reducing it by one-third by 2030. With the latest data being from 2019, the UN warns 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 wellbeing of people around the world. In 2020, there was an 25% increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. 

The Nordics

The Nordic countries have lower mortality rates than the OECD-average from non-communicable diseases. In its assessment report, the OECD has set a target level of 7.5% in 2030 to preserve comparability among OECD countries, which Finland and Denmark are slightly less likely to reach than Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

Given recent trends it is unlikely that any of the Nordics will reach the 2030 target for reducing suicide mortality rate, according to the OECD. The target suicide mortality rate for 2030, to preserve comparability across OECD-countries, has been set at 3 per 100,000 persons.

When including additional OECD data for suicide, the OECD finds in its combined assessment for this target that the Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden is making progress but it is insufficient to reach the 2030 target, while Iceland is not making progress towards the target.

Target 3.5

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


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 coverage of treatment interventions.

Data from 2019 shows that alcohol consumption globally is higher than at the start of the century. Europe and Northern America has the highest consumption, measured in liters of pure alcohol per capita.

Data on substance abuse of other than alcohol is not available.

The Nordics

OECD data on alcohol consumption in the Nordics shows a mixed picture. Sweden is currently the only country deemed as being on track to reaching the 2030 target, set at 7.5 liters. Norway has low consumption levels but recent data from 2020 shows rising consumption. Iceland is also moving away from the target.

Target 3.6

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


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. The rate of death relative to the size of the global population has, however, decreased over the past two decades to 16.7 in 2019, implying that road safety has improved somewhat 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 has therefore 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 only region that have made significant progress towards reducing death rates caused by road traffic injuries over the past two decades.

The Nordics

All the Nordic countries have made progress towards this target, and have low death rates compared to other OECD-countries. To preserve comparability among countries, the OECD has set a benchmark of reducing death rates to 2.7 (half the median rate for OECD-countries in 2015).

Based on the latest data, the assesses that Norway, Sweden and Iceland have a high likelihood of reaching the target in 2030 with rates already below the target rate.

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


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

77% of women of reproductive age had their family planning needs met be modern contraceptive methods in 2021. The share has remained stable for the last few years at a global level, yet a regional level it has increased in several regions. The largest increase has been observed in Sub-Saharan Africa (from 36% in 2000 to 56% of women in 2021).

The adolescent birth rate, measured as births per 1,000 adolescent women fro 15-19 years, has fallen steadily over the past two decades. The rates have declined in all regions, except Eastern and South-Eastern Asia (which already had one of the lowest levels.)

Note that no concrete target for 2030 has been set for neither the adolescent birth rate or the share of women who have their family planning needs met.

The Nordics

OECD data allows for yearly tracking the adolescent fertility rate in OECD-countries, and the OECD has set a target for member-countries at 3 per 1000 women in 2030. The current trajectory in all Nordic countries gives a high likelihood that they will reach this 2030 target.

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


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

Coverage of essential health services is measure by the WHO Universial 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 essential health services.

From 2000 to 2019 the average global score has improved from 45 to 67 meaning more people have gained access to essential services. All regions have also improved their index score over this period. Data for 2020 and 2021 will most likely be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the UN expecting the progress to halt.

The latest data on household expenditures on health is from 2017, 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. Oceania has seen its share decline to just 1% since 2000.

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 a trajectory towards full score (defined as above 97) by 2030.

Target 3.9

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


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

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).

The mortality rate attributed to unsafe water, sanitation and lack of hygiene was at the global level 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.

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

All the Nordics have low mortality attributed to household and ambient pollution. The data also shows that mortality attributed to unsafe water, sanitation and lack of hygiene is virtually non-existent in the Nordics (all with rates at 4 or below per 100,000 population.)

OECD age-standardised rates for accidental poisoning show that none of the Nordics have managed to reduce mortality rates over the past two decades.

No assessment is shown, as new data has been released after the OECD published its report.

Target 3.a

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


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 were using tobacco. Rates have declined in all regions, and was 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 population using tobacco has more than halved since 2000 in Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Yet, according to the OECDs assessment, the progress made is not sufficient to eradicate tobacco use by 2030, with Costa Rica the only OECD-country currently on track to do so.

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


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

A. 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 on the rise in the last two decades. The UN SDG status report 2022 highlights three main points:

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive effort on vaccinations, with infant immunization coverage dropped to 83% in 2020 from 86% in 2019.
  2. The current global coverage level of the measles vaccine (70%) is insufficient to prevent measles outbreaks illness, disability and deaths caused by complications associated with the disease.
  3. The HPV vaccine, targeting young girls to prevent cervical cancer, has a global coverage level of 12% but with large regional differences and has not yet reached the poorest countries.

B. Official Development Assistance (ODA)

Data for net ODA to medical research and basic health sectors is available from 2010, showing a doubling in total net disbursements from 2010 to 2020.

c. Health facilities

Data for this indicator is currently not available at 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.

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


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 2020 show large differences in health care worker density across regions. In Europe there was 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 higher density of health care workers than the European average in all occupational groups, except pharmacists (Denmark and Iceland below European average). Furthermore, the density levels have increased across all groups over the past two decades.

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


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

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 a IHR capacity scores covering13 areas including, surveillance, ports of entry and risk communication.

From 2018 a revised assessment and reporting tool was implemented capacity and health emergency preparedness, and the current global average score (for all 13 capacities) for 2020 was 65% out of 100, up from 61% in 2018. At a regional level, average capacity scores have increased in all regions except Northern Africa and Western Asia.

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 of 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 2019/2020. Tracking progress over time is a challenge due to the revised framework in 2018, however the OECD in its assessment combines a calculation based on past trends (2010-2017) and current level in the new framework. The combined assessment finds that most OECD countries are on pace to reach the target off full score in 2030 (operationalised at 97%), including Finland, Norway and Sweden. Despite a high current score, past performance indicates Denmark would need to make more progress, according to the OECD.

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.

The assessment on the Nordic countries is based on the findings from a recent OECD report, published in April 2022. The OECD uses a three-tier classification for each target:

  • Target is achieved or on track to being achieved
  • Progress has been made, but is insufficient to meet the target
  • No progress or moving away from the SDG target

Note that the OECD methodology uses the current status on a target and calculates a likely trend towards 2030 based on recent progress. Thus, a country which is close to a target, but trending away from it, will be classified as "No progress or moving away from the SDG target". Conversely, a country which is currently further away from the target, but trending towards it (and has a high likelihood of reaching it before 2030), will be classified as "Target is achieved or on track to being achieved".


  • Pilot release 20 June 2022

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