Since the sustainable development goals (SDGs) were introduced in September 2015, we have read the phrase “we cannot continue with business as usual” many times. It is now common to hear calls to transform the way we work by taking an integrated approach and pursue multisectoral partnerships. However, it is still rare for proponents to explain how collaboration between different sectors can happen or what such collaboration looks like in practice.

Clearly it’s not too diffcult for health sector professionals to buy into health goals, but if we broaden the view of the SDG agenda it’s important to recognise that other sectors work towards different goals and outcomes. These goals may feel distant to the everyday work of health professionals, such as improved traffic flow in cities, lower environmental impact from food production, creating peaceful and inclusive communities, or increasing the use of clean energy. The real trick here would be to develop strategies, policies, and practices that promote such sectoral goals together with health outcomes. This is what the SDGs are about: a coherent and integrated approach to resolve some of the world’s major development challenges across environmental, social, economic, and institutional domains.

To make sense of this, and to foster multi-sectoral collaboration, we need a structured way of identifying interactions between sectors. When we achieve
progress on one goal, how does this affect the conditions for achieving progress on another? An SDG interactions framework has been developed to help policy makers and planners to think these issues through. Mapping the interactions between sectoral objectives is in itself a multi-stakeholder process and provides the necessary starting point to carry out the “define” stage in Kuruvilla and colleagues’ model. In this stage, respective goals and issues are framed and structured across sectors, and their respective roles and priorities are determined.