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It is time for academic institutions to align their strategies and priorities with the Sustainable Development Goals
  1. Corrado Cancedda1,
  2. Agnes Binagwaho2,
  3. Vanessa Kerry3
  1. 1 Center for Global Health, Division of Infectious Disease/Department of Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  2. 2 University of Global Health Equity, Kigali, Rwanda
  3. 3 Center for Global Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Seed Global Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Corrado Cancedda; ccancedd{at}

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Summary box

  • There are strategic reasons and value-generating opportunities for academic institutions to fully embrace and actively pursue the health-related Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) and other SDGs.

  • The SDGs will incentivise academic institutions to think long term and strategically, align fundraising to the pursuit of local priorities, use common health-related metrics to monitor progress, collaborate across sectors and establish effective global health partnerships.

  • The SDGs will also incentivise academic institutions to perfect metrics for institutional capacity strengthening and sustainability, which should be a stated and measurable outcome of any global health partnership.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda

It has been almost 3 years since the United Nations announced the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2030 Agenda.1 The third of the 17 goals (SDG3) is specifically focused on health and is composed of 13 targets addressing a comprehensive set of global health priorities ( Successful pursuit of SDG3 will require strong leadership from national governments and the United Nations system but also from other partners including multilateral organisations, civil society, business and the private sector.2 Among the partners, academic institutions working in global health have a pivotal role to play.3 We argue that, although the SDGs are imperfect, there remain strategic reasons, value-generating opportunities and a moral responsibility for academic institutions both in high-income and low-income to middle-income countries to fully incorporate the pursuit of SDG3 and other SDGs into their strategies, plans or operations to help advance the SDGs globally (box 1).

Box 1

Reasons for academic institutions to incorporate the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their strategies and operations.

  • A target date of 2030 will incentivise academic institutions to (a) think long term and strategically, and (b) answer the hard question: “Where do we want to be in 2030?”

  • Academic institutions will also be incentivised to develop strategies that are driven by the SDGs rather than by the perceived availability of funding.

  • SDGs will contribute to eliminating the false …

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