The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were defined in 2001, making poverty the central focus of the global political agenda. In response to MDG targets for health, new funding instruments called Global Health Initiatives were set up to target specific diseases, with an emphasis on "quick win" interventions, in order to show improvements by 2015. In 2005 the UN Millennium Project defined quick wins as simple, proven interventions with "very high potential short-term impact that can be immediately implemented", in contrast to "other interventions which are more complicated and will take a decade of effort or have delayed benefits". Although the terminology has evolved from "quick wins" to "quick impact initiatives" and then to "high impact interventions", the short-termism of the approach remains. This paper examines the merits and limitations of MDG indicators for assessing progress and their relationship to quick impact interventions. It then assesses specific health interventions through both the lens of time and their integration into health care services, and examines the role of health systems strengthening in support of the MDGs. We argue that fast-track interventions promoted by donors and Global Health Initiatives need to be complemented by mid- and long-term strategies, cutting across specific health problems. Implementing the MDGs is more than a process of "money changing hands". Combating poverty needs a radical overhaul of the partnership between rich and poor countries and between rich and poor people within countries.
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