A life-course approach to health and sustainable development


A person’s health and well-being are shaped by many different individual, social and environmental factors throughout life. Risk exposures in early life can affect health, wellbeing and socioeconomic participation decades later. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG 3) for 2030 is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”, a goal that crosscuts with the other SDGs. These global goals, to which all stakeholders in health and other sectors are working towards, offer a robust framework within which to optimize health and wellbeing throughout life, and enable their contributions to societies and sustainable development.

This brief explains why a life course approach is fundamental in delivering the SDGs and on promises to expand access to primary health care and to provide universal health coverage – all explicitly calling for a people-centred approach. It summarises WHO’s work in promoting health and human capital through the life course.