India is not on-target for 19 of the 33 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) of the United Nations, which is more than 50% of the indicators, with the critical off-target ones including access to basic services, poverty, stunting and wasting of children, anaemia, child marriage, partner violence, tobacco use, and modern contraceptive use, according to a study published in The Lancet journal.

For these indicators, more than 75% of the districts were off-target, says the study titled ‘Progress on Sustainable Development Goal indicators in 707 districts of India’. The authors of the study say because of a worsening trend observed between 2016 and 2021, and assuming no course correction occurs, many districts will never meet the targets on the SDGs even well after 2030.

"These Off-Target districts are concentrated in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha. Finally, it does not appear that Aspirational Districts, on average, are performing better in meeting the SDG targets than other districts on a majority of the indicators."

The authors of the study noted that a mid-line assessment of districts’ progress on SDGs suggests an urgent need to increase the pace and momentum on four SDG goals -- no poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being and gender equality.

"Developing a strategic roadmap at this time will help India ensure success with regard to meeting the SDGs. India’s emergence and sustenance as a leading economic power depend on meeting some of the more basic health and social determinants of health-related SDGs in an immediate and equitable manner," says the study.

The study was conducted by collecting data on children and adults from two rounds of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2016 and 2021. "We identified 33 indicators that cover 9 of the 17 official SDGs. We used the goals and targets outlined by the Global Indicator Framework, Government of India and World Health Organisation (WHO) to determine SDG targets to be met by 2030."

Using precision-weighted multilevel models, a district mean for 2016 and 2021, and using these values, computed the Annual Absolute Change (AAC) for each indicator was estimated. Using the AAC and targets, they classified India and each district as Achieved-I, Achieved-II, On-Target and Off-Target.

Notably, India has committed itself to accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. However, meeting these goals will require prioritising and targeting specific areas within India, says the study, which provided a mid-line assessment of the progress across 707 districts of India for 33 SDG indicators related to health and social determinants of health.

"Given that the various SDGs fall within tightly structured ministries, there is a case to establish inter-ministerial initiatives, with clear governance structures under the Prime Minister’s Office. Similar structures could be developed at the state level under the respective chief minister’s office," says the report.

As India rapidly moves forward as a leading economic player in the world economy, its full realisation will crucially depend on addressing some of the more basic health and social determinants of these critical health-related SDGs.

Notably, Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) compiled jointly by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) last year showed a "historic change" as India lifted over 415 million (41.5 crore) people from multidimensional poverty in a 15-year period.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all UN member states in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet. At its heart are the 17 SDGs, which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing.

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