Dr Wanjiku Mathenge, Medical Advisor for The Fred Hollows Foundation, recently addressed an Australian medical conference, outlining the factors that contribute to achieving success in global health. 

Dr Mathenge, who is based in Rwanda, spoke to over 600 delegates at the Australian Medical Students Association's annual Global Health conference, discussing the common traits of high impact programs.

"Big, lasting, world changing success is possible when the right ingredients all come together," Dr Mathenge said.

According to Dr Mathenge, experts in global health have found that the common factors in global health success case stories include having the right political leadership and champions for the cause, utilising technological advances, having expert consensus around the approach, implementing management that effectively uses information and access to sufficient financial resources.

Dr Mathenge also highlighted the great successes that have been achieved in global health, countering claims that work in the area is achieving little.

"Each year nearly four months are added to life expectancy globally. And in Africa the under five mortality rate has dropped from around 200 per 1,000 children in 1950, to around 88 per 1,000 today.

"In addition, research shows that social and economic growth in developing countries can only explain half the gains in health; the rest can be attributed to global health efforts," Dr Mathenge said.

According to Dr Mathenge great gains have also been achieved in the area of avoidable blindness. Strategies such as SAFE, to combat trachoma, and work being undertaken to achieve the goals of VISION 2020 have the potential to become global health success stories, she said.

"In Rwanda for example the prevalence of blindness is coming down, the number of eye workers is increasing and the quality of surgery is improving.

"We can definitely eliminate avoidable blindness in Rwanda by 2020. I believe we can do it," Dr Mathenge said.

Other keynote speakers at the conference included Dr Nelson Martins - Timor Leste Minister for Health, Patrick McGorry - former Australian of the Year and Marie Bashir - Governor of New South Wales.

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