Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

What Works?

February 2003 – December 2004
Visit the
Millions Saved website

Background and Purpose

The central objective of the "What Works?" Working Group was to document a series of large implementation experiences in international health that were judged to be successful using a high standard of evidence. The working group closely examined possible international public health "success stories," assessed the quality of evidence about them, identified common factors that contributed to the successes, and prepared a policy report to present their findings.


To bring together the accumulated knowledge of individuals who have made major contributions to the field of international health over the past several decades, the "What Works?" Working Group collaborated closely with the Disease Control Priorities Project in Developing Countries Project of the Fogarty International Center at the US National Institutes of Health. Led by eight editors (Dean T. Jamison, George Alleyne, Joel Breman, Mariam Claeson, David B. Evans, Prabhat Jha, Anthony R. Measham and Anne Mills), this project recruited more than 100 leading specialists in different fields of international health to write chapters on the state-of-the-art in their area of expertise. The working group invited DCPP authors to respond to the question, "What are the major implementation successes in international health?" Based on the suggestions and background materials provided by the DCPP authors, as well as additional research and consultation, the working group determined which cases best fit the criteria for "success" and had the strongest evidence base - supported by peer-reviewed journal articles and official project evaluations. Of the 60 success cases submitted by DCPP authors, the Working Group prepared 17 case write-ups based on documentary information and interviews with key informants. The resulting book, "Millions Saved: Proven Successes in Global Health" not only documents the success stories, but uses their common elements across them to derive lessons for the design and implementation of current and future global health initiatives. The book and its companion instructors' guide have been used in over 50 universities, and provided the basis for in-depth discussions within international health projects about how to improve the chances for future success. In 2007, a second edition, Case Studies in Global Health: Millions Saved, was published by Jones and Bartlett to accompany a new global health textbook and includes updates to the original 17 cases as well as 3 new success stories.

Working Group Members

Members of the Working Group were invited to join in a personal capacity and on a voluntary basis. The report of the Working Group reflects a consensus among the members listed above. This report does not necessarily represent the views of the organizations with which the Working Group members are affiliated, the Center for Global Development’s funders or its Board of Directors.