Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Student Reflections on Topics Covered in our Class

Global Health Blogs with Professor Swahn

Goals I Never Knew Existed – Wow!

September 10, 2020 · 1 Comment · SDGs, Uncategorized

The sustainable development goals (SDGs) are 17 goals that I had no idea even existed. I knew there were general sustainability goals in different countries but I did not know there were goals set by the United Nations. The goals have been adopted by 193 countries and the goals will [hopefully] be achieved by 2030. After reading through these goals, I find this initiative very interesting and I cannot wait to see their implementation and see the goals eventually achieved. I also enjoy that on the United Nations website (see here) they give helpful ways for everyone to get involved! I know from personal experience that sometimes I feel overwhelmed and that my contributions might not be worthwhile in the grand scheme of things. For example, I have been recently composting to minimize the 35% of good quality food that goes to waste every year (see USDA Website). I take my food scraps to a local community garden to be reused as nutrients for new food, and I am still frustrated after a year of composting how much food waste I produce despite paying attention to it more than the average consumer. But composting is not easy or accessible in all communities, and not everyone is interested in keeping rotten food in a compost bin, and therefore in my opinion it is important for everyone to find their niche when it comes to supporting these sustainability goals. If everyone would start making small changes in their everyday life, big changes would start to occur on the global scale and we could be well on our way to achieving these goals by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals

(UN, 2015)

I think it is interesting to note that before these sustainable development goals were adopted in 2015, there were another set of goals that were created in 2000 and set out to be achieved prior to 2015. These goals were called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There were 8 goals and 15 targets. According to Murphy in 2015, “not all of the goals were met, but humanity took historic steps to end extreme poverty and the pathologies associated with it”. The first target, related to Goal 1, aimed to halve the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 per day between 1990 and 2015. This target was achieved by 2015, and the methods used to achieve this target and others are promising examples to follow as we target the new Sustainable Development Goals.  Shown below are the Millennium Development Goals from 2000.


(Murphy, 2015)


I find it disturbing that these sustainable development goals are not discussed in public health courses as often in the United States as they are in other countries in the world. My undergraduate degree is also in public health and these goals were not discussed then either. I am concerned that the United States is not contributing as much to the sustainability goals as other countries are, even though we contribute significantly to the problems these goals are addressing. I also wonder if we, as U.S. citizens, would be more passionate about these goals, if most of our citizens understood these goals and the motivations behind creating them. Our first-world country bubble of perception hinders our understanding of the serious problems much of the world faces. I believe that as public health students it is part of our duty to help educate others on these goals and show that we are trying to create a better future for our children and grandchildren. The engagement of youth and teenagers in these goals will be critical to their achievement by 2030. 

A consistent goal set by the U.N. is to end world hunger as soon as possible (#2 of the SDGs), which is a goal that I believe most of us would like to help achieve, and yet, I do not know how to help. This has always been an issue, but recently world hunger has gotten much worse. According to the chief of the UN’s World Food Programme in 2020, “At the same time while dealing with a COVID-19 pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunger pandemic.” A total of approximately 265 million people will be pushed to the brink of starvation before the end of 2020 (UN World Food Programme, 2020).

Why are we not talking more about world hunger?

       Because we’re not hungry?

       Because we don’t know other people are hungry?

       Because we don’t care other people are hungry?

       Because we can’t help hungry people?

       Because we don’t know how to help hungry people?

These are the hard questions we must ask ourselves and others in order to try and change the horrible effect hunger has in peoples’ lives across the globe. I volunteer at a food pantry in TN with my grandfather (pictured below, second from the right) and am consistently amazed at how much change a local food pantry can do in a community/area. I would recommend everyone to volunteer at a food pantry/soup kitchen/food drive to get an idea at what food insecurity looks like especially in your community. For example, every year the National Association of Letter Carriers holds a “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive all over the country. This year they were not able to hold the actual food drive due to the coronavirus, but encourage everyone to find a local food bank and donate food. You can find your local food pantry here.

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive


The Future We Want campaign is an exciting concept that is designed to help bring youth into the conversation of sustainability. It makes them want to get involved and many youth are currently leaders in the sustainability goals areas. I believe that if there were programs such as this when I was child (I am 24), the environment could be in a better place already. I grew up in east Tennessee where there are not many advocates for environmentally friendly options. East TN is famous for the beautiful (ask any TN person) Smoky Mountains, coal-powered power plants,  and Oak Ridge (where parts of the atom bomb that ended World War II were built)…Not all that environmentally friendly if you ask me, but they are getting better! When I was younger I had no concept of reducing/recycling, and now a lot of people are recycling and the coal powered plants are being closed in favor of hydroelectric sources of power (working toward SDG #7 in TN!). 



  • Murphy, T. (2015, July 07). News in the Humanosphere: U.N. issues final report on Millennium Development Goals. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from
  • United Nations News. (2015, December 30). Sustainable Development Goals to kick in with start of new year. Retrieved September 08, 2020, from
  • United Nations World Food Programme. (2020, April 21). WFP Chief warns of hunger pandemic as COVID-19 spreads (Statement to UN Security Council). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from


One Comment

  • jbarrios5

    Great blog! I also didn’t know about these goals at first and am still incredibly baffled that these aren’t spoken about more in general health classes at any education level! Great insights!

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