Book Review: Millions Saved
Posted by chads on July 12, 2007
There are few books that I would recommend everyone interested in global health have on their bookshelves. “Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health” by Ruth Levine and the What Works Working Group is one such book.
You see, my experience in global health suggests that the main barrier to success in combating needless suffering and early death in developing countries lies not so much in identifying the need. It seems to me that most people recognize at least superficially the disparities in health globally. The main barrier lies in convincing funders that the cause is worth funding, and in reaching a consensus among those that implement global health programs. A first step in breaking those barriers is to identify prior successes and examine why they were successful. “Millions Saved” does just that.
Ruth Levine and her colleagues at the Center for Global Development have identified a series of 17 successful global health cases – interventions that have actually saved lives. From eradicating small pox world-wide to eliminating measles in Southern Africa, they give us a brief introduction to the scope of the problem, share how the intervention was implemented, and show how and why it was successful. They then share six common characteristics, lessons learned:
- Success is possible even in the poorest countries
- Governments in poor countries can do the job – and in some cases are the chief funders
- Technology, yes – but behavior change, too
- International coalitions have worked
- Attribution is possible
- Success comes in all shapes
The book is a short, easy read at about 150 pages. Each chapter explains a case, and both qualitative and quantitative aspects (with limitations) of the successes are discussed. There is currently a new edition out (I have not yet read it) which is being used in college courses.
“Millions Saved” answers critics, inspires idealists, and reminds those working in the often frustrating field of global health that a healthier world is, in fact, possible. I highly recommend this book.