The United States Agency for International Development recently awarded Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health $19.8 million for a five-year research project.
The project, Fertility Awareness for Community Transportation, aims to spread awareness in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia about reproductive health and family planning methods. According to a university press release, in those developing countries, the risk of a woman dying due to pregnancy and childbirth is currently one in 75, which is nearly 100 times the level in developed countries. Thus far, IRH is considering conducting research in Rwanda, India, Uganda and Nepal, but the list of countries has not yet been finalized.
“Family planning, in general, has been shown to have a significant impact on the world,” IRH Director and Founder Victoria Jennings said. “What we do know from the research is that if women are in a position to be able to avoid pregnancy when they don’t want to get pregnant, and if they have other options in their lives, it really does create a better world for everybody.”
“It helps women’s education. It helps the health of the family. It helps their ability to educate their children, and helps their economic lives. So it’s really the best poverty reduction intervention that there is,” IRH Deputy Director Rebecka Lundgren said.
For the FACT project, IRH will conduct research through implementation science, which involves gathering information through surveys, focus groups, interviews and panels to determine the results of increased education. As a result, the research will provide evidence on any direct benefits of increased knowledge and understanding of sexual health among men and women.
“I’m really excited about trying to come up with some ways of really raising awareness and understanding, especially among younger, newly married couples who are not very well reached by programs that are out there already and to reach [them] in a large enough scale that we can really make a difference,” Lundgren said.
Over the last 25 years, USAID has given IRH nearly $150 million in funding, which Lundgren attributed to the institute’s record of success.
“We have a long track record of successful interventions or projects to help women, men, and also adolescents to understand their fertility and make decisions to protect their health based on that,”Lundgren said.
For example, IRH developed the Standard Days Method, which scientifically tracks and monitors women’s reproductive cycles and has been proven to be successful through independent studies.
“Under Victoria Jenning’s leadership, IRH has demonstrated critical contributions in creating receptive environments within communities around the world so they can embrace evidence-based reproductive health programs,” Georgetown University School of Medicine Executive Dean HowardFederoff said in the press release. “These programs make a significant impact not only on individuals but entire communities. We’re proud that IRH is one of many groups making a global impact by addressing this challenge.”
The project is expected to enter the field by January.