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April 5 marked the official launch of our new book, Millions Saved: New Cases of Proven Success in Global Health. The new volume features case studies of 22 health programs from around the world and draws out what we can learn from each.

We were honored to host two heroes of successful programs featured in the book: Abraham Aseffa, scientific director of Armauer Hansen Research Institute in Ethiopia, who has been integral in the rollout of a meningitis A vaccine in Ethiopia and across the region; and Samuel Ochieng, Principal Children Officer for the Government of Kenya, who leads a national cash transfer program to improve the lives of vulnerable children. We were also thrilled to be joined by ONE’s co-founder and executive director Jamie Drummond, who has years of experience in policy advocacy and spoke to the “what’s next” for a book like Millions Saved.

All three speakers spoke passionately about the uphill battles they have faced and overcome, the continuing efforts needed in global health, and what we all might learn from their experiences. Their message was simple and clear: successful global health programs require strategic partnerships; political will and government and technical leaders who can drive progress; and proof – via impact evaluations and timely, accurate data—that the program is working, or not.

Partnerships

One of the key lessons of Millions Saved is that success requires partnerships and coalitions to mobilize needed technical, financial and political resources, both domestically and internationally. Indeed, many of the programs in the book relied on strategic partnerships and shared responsibility. That often means collaborating across government, NGOs and foundations, aid agencies, and the private sector. As aptly put in the introduction of the book, “all do their part and no one foots the bill alone.”

One of the best examples of the use and importance of a creative partnership was the Meningitis Vaccine Project. MVP brought together unlikely partners to develop, test, and rollout MenAfriVac, a vaccine to protect against meningitis A, in more than a dozen countries across Africa reaching hundreds of millions of people. Aseffa spoke to the importance of this extraordinary partnership, noting that it was the right partners, with shared values, who believed in a solid evidence base and were committed and passionate about ending meningitis A in endemic countries.

 

Political will

Programs that rely on funding and technical support from the government require political will that can be sustained over time, across political cycles. Aseffa remarked on how MVP and the MenAfriVac immunization campaign emerged from the needs of Africans who were suffering from periodic meningitis outbreaks and how this served to mobilize African institutions to commit to eliminating the disease. Importantly, as he noted, “Everyone believed in the mission.”

Ochieng echoed the need to bring the right people on board and shared an interesting anecdote about garnering governmental commitment. He told us about traveling to South America with Kenyan government officials in the early 2000s to see successful cash transfer programs in action. As he explained (and as we chronicle in the book), this trip secured the funding needed to get a pilot program up and running in Kenya. In fact, the government officials were so impressed by the cash transfer programs they visited that all they wanted to know upon returning to Kenya was, “How much do you want [to pilot the program]?” Notably, both programs have now been running for over a decade, surviving changes in government leadership.

 

Proof

One of the reasons the vaccine campaign and cash transfer program have had such great success is because they have shown that they’re having a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. Reliable, timely, accurate data is key not only for accountability purposes but essential for rigorous program evaluation.

However, as Drummond astutely pointed out, we are currently dealing with a data crisis—or “poverty of data.” Household surveys exclude people who live outside traditional homes, people who are displaced or reside in slums—which means millions of people may be unaccounted for worldwide. Accurate civil registration and vital statistics, which are critical for determining a population’s health, is often unreliable, missing, or not made public in low-income countries without the statistical capacity to collect such data. As Drummond noted, we need to advocate for better evidence and do our part to see the data revolution move forward. We also need to create a culture of evidence that we can tap into to know what works and what doesn’t—and that’s exactly with Millions Saved is all about.

 

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.