Millions Saved: An Examination of Past Success and Predictions for the Future of Global Health

On April 5, the Center for Global Development (CGD) held a launch party for their book Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health. The third edition of this book – with two previous editions released in 2004 and 2007 — highlights case studies of successful public health programs from around the world.

The book aims to examine value for money in global health programs, as well as understand system failures, co-author Amanda Glassman said in introductory remarks. She described the purpose of Millions Saved as “not just to inform and educate, but to recognize excellence.”

Four common traits were observed in successful case studies. These initiatives were all able to:

  1. Make wise interventions based on population and resources
  2. Utilize strong technological exchange and global partnerships
  3. Achieve sustained political leadership and support
  4. Use continuous data output to adjust strategies for the best outcome

Two representatives from successful case studies then spoke about their programs. Dr. Abraham Aseffa spoke about the MenAfriVac victory in the Meningitis Belt of Africa. In the 26 African countries where the vaccine was distributed, Meningitis A has been nearly eliminated. Aseffa emphasized the strong partnerships (with organizations ranging from the Gates Foundation to the Serum Institute of India) and effective communication that were integral to achieving this goal.

Next, Samuel Ochieng of the Children’s Services Department in the Kenyan government delivered a report on an unconditional cash transfer program used to protect AIDS orphans and vulnerable children. Overcoming economic, implementation and capacity obstacles, the cash transfers have now been able to reduce absolute poverty by 36 percent in the three pilot districts.

A final keynote address by Jamie Drummond, co-founder of ONE, looked to the future of global health. While he acknowledged the amazing progress made toward the Millennium Development Goals, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, he pointed out the danger of potentially overstated statistics and the need for more comprehensive data. There is a drastic need for greater data collection among local governments, and biases against women and girls in data are extreme – 82.3 percent of sex-disaggregated data is missing for important statistics such as birth mortality rate.

Drummond called for a “data revolution” as the next step in global health development. True progress cannot be made without accurate data to direct programs and solutions. New leadership through organizations such as the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data hope to move development policy in that direction in the future.

As Drummond reminds us, there are still many improvements left to make in the field of global health. Yet the successes are still worth celebrating, and Millions Saved demonstrates the significant advancements in global health that have taken place in the last 10 years.