Better Health for Billions: How Delivery Associates Partnered with the World Health Organization to Drive Progress on the Triple Billion Targets

May 28, 2024
DA News
Anna Sakiqi
Anna Sakiqi
Mary Dain
Mary Dain
Romina Genovesi
Romina Genovesi
Claudine Menashe-Jones
Claudine Menashe-Jones

In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) affirmed its commitment to improve the health of billions of people by 2023. Transformation on such a massive scale, difficult for any large organization, was a significant challenge to achieving this important goal. Discover how Delivery Associates partnered with the WHO to develop a coordinated performance management system for translating ambitious goals into specific targets and action items to create impact regionally, nationally—and beyond.

The Triple Billion Targets: Propelling One Billion People Toward Better Health & Well-being

The WHO pledged in 2018 to boost health outcomes for 3 billion people across 194 countries using over 35 health indicators. The initiative, known as the Triple Billion targets, specifically seeks to:

  • Ensure one billion more people benefit from Universal Health Coverage; 
  • Protect one billion more people from health emergencies; and 
  • Help one billion more people lead healthier lives with increased experiences of and opportunities for well-being.

These lofty goals are part of WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s aim to transform the WHO into a “modern, seamless, impact-focused organization to better help Member States achieve the health-related Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Ambitious Goals. Steep Challenges.

Like other multinational organizations, the WHO faces a common conundrum: They must translate aspirational goals into concrete, meaningful, and measurable milestones with consistently available indicators in order to deliver results. In pursuit of the Triple Billion targets, that meant reinforcing the existing capacity of each member country while building a system for and culture of delivery that permeates every level of the organization.

Scale was the prevailing delivery challenge for the Triple Billion targets, encompassing a goal to improve health outcomes for three billion people across the world. However, the WHO encountered other challenges as well, including:

  1. Pivoting during Triple Billion implementation to refocus efforts on COVID-19 pandemic response.
  1. Maintaining the WHO’s action towards and accountability for the targets. 
  1. Navigating the complexity of the WHO’s remit, which requires going beyond the provision of health services to influencing wider aspects of government, from climate change to industry regulation.

Turning Ideas into Concrete Actions

Delivery Associates supported the WHO in four main areas:

  1. Capacity-building: Delivery associates directly supported the effective set-up of the new Department for Delivery of Impact (DFI), designed to build and maintain delivery capacity internally and at the national level. The DFI played an integral role in building both understanding of and capacity for the Triple Billion targets internally. 
  1. Understanding challenges and risks: Working closely with global, regional, and national WHO teams, Delivery Associated helped to coordinate groups of technical experts, decision makers, leaders from every level, and delivery teams on the ground to better understand practical challenges and determine critical risks. 
  1. Defining targets: Delivery Associates helped translate the Triple Billion targets into specific, operational, time-bound, and context-appropriate indicators for the global, regional, and national levels to estimate:
  • Baseline: The starting point in 2018.
  • Gaps: The distance to the targets.
  • Acceleration Scenarios: Potential scenarios for speeding up progress.
  • Collective Impact: The WHO’s potential impact if every country achieved their respective targets.
  1. Tracking progress: To determine progress, Delivery Associates supported the WHO with the technical and political steps necessary to set up an integrated tracking system for each of the Triple Billion targets, and defined metrics and trajectories at the regional and country levels.

Results that Matter—for Better Health and the WHO

Efforts toward the Triple Billion targets have fundamentally shifted the way the WHO operates, transitioning the targets from initial ideation and commitment through to embedded performance routines and concrete action at all levels of the organization.

Recent projections indicate that in 2023 (compared to 2018): 

  • 1.26 billion more people were expected to be enjoying better health and well-being;
  • 477 million more people were expected to be covered by essential health services and not experiencing financial hardship; and
  • 690 million more people were expected to be protected by health emergencies.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt via

The WHO remains committed to the Triple Billion targets, with plans to rededicate resources to achieving those goals.

And in addition to generating impressive health-related benefits for millions of people, the initiative has also led to important changes in the way country teams work, setting the stage for future success. For example, the initial plan was to embed teams in WHO countries to improve health outcomes, but when COVID-19 prevented safe travel, workstreams shifted to a virtual capacity-building process through the new Impact Knowledge Hub.

The Knowledge Hub successfully bolstered capacity-building for eight country teams focused on the Triple Billion targets, serving as the proof-of-concept for larger-scale organizational knowledge-sharing initiatives. In a Knowledge Hub feedback survey, 97% of respondents reported gaining a better understanding of delivery principles and tools, and 91% felt confident that they will achieve their team’s Triple Billion objectives. 

Furthermore, the WHO will evolve this Knowledge Hub trial into an open access, capacity-building course accessible to all 194 member countries. The Hub will also provide the foundation for future development of the WHO Academy, the Organization’s “learning centre for anybody who strives to improve health.”

Establishing a foundation for delivery, attaining a deeper understanding of Triple Billion challenges, and supporting leadership to drive delivery together laid the groundwork for systems which serve as the cornerstone of WHO’s delivery culture at every level of the organization. The WHO continues to emerge as a model of how large, multinational, multi-layered organizations can achieve single-minded goals adapted to the respective needs of local level teams and contexts.  

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