India will need to increase momentum to meet goals of No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being and Gender Equality, the study notes. Credit: Subhra Priyadarshini

A mid-line assessment of the progress of India's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reveals that the country is off-track on achieving 19 of the 33 indicators related to health and social determinants of health1.

The study conducted by researchers from Harvard University and Korea University analysed data from 707 districts captured in two rounds of India's National Family Health Survey conducted in 2016 and 2021.

The critical off-target indicators included access to basic services, poverty, stunting and wasting of children, anaemia, child marriage, partner violence, tobacco use, and modern contraceptive use. More than 75% of india's districts were off-track on these indicators. The worst-performing districts were in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, and Odisha.

The study also revealed a worsening trend between 2016 and 2021 and predicted that, if no course correction happens, many districts will never meet the targets on the SDGs well after 2030.

According to S.V. Subramanian, a co-author of the study, "India needs to increase the pace and momentum on four SDG goals: No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger (SDG 2), Good Health and Well-Being (SDG 3) and Gender Equality (SDG 5)." India’s emergence and sustenance as a leading economic power depends on meeting some of these goals, he said.

The study also found that the 'Aspirational Districts' (AD), a programme launched by the Indian government to promote inclusive and sustainable development in 117 districts, did not perform better than non-AD districts in meeting the SDG targets on the majority of these indicators.

India has committed to achieving the SDGs by 2030. The goals and targets were outlined by the Global Indicator Framework, the Government of India, and World Health Organization.

The researchers used precision-weighted multilevel models to estimate district mean for 2016 and 2021 and compute the annual absolute change for each indicator. They also identified the calendar year in which the target will be met post-2030 for districts that were off-track on a given indicator.