The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $40 million to the School to support family planning and reproductive health initiatives in developing nations, where unintended pregnancies and unsafe childbearing are a major cause of illness and death.
The grant will provide continued funding for the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health. The Gates Institute works to establish enduring education programs and train new leaders in developing countries; to develop and transfer program technology, models, and practices; and to conduct collaborative research and translate findings into programs and policies.
Of the 210 million pregnancies that occur worldwide each year, 66 million are unwanted and lead to 20 million unsafe abortions, the majority of which occur in the developing world. If the 120 million women in developing countries who want and need family planning services had access to them, these and future unintended pregnancies could be prevented.
“We are tremendously grateful to the Gates Foundation,” said Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS '73, dean of the School. “The foundation’s vision and generosity will enable the Institute to continue its important work of training and strengthening the reproductive health leadership of the developing world,” added Dean Sommer.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health was established at the School of Public Health in 1999 with a $20 million gift from the Gates Foundation, following a successful pilot grant awarded to the School in 1997. Since its launch, the Institute has actively pursued its primary mission of developing and strengthening the capacity of individuals and institutions in the developing world to address their most pressing and overarching problems related to population, family planning, and reproductive health.
“Improving reproductive health services in developing countries could save millions of lives, but it requires stronger in-country human and institutional capacity,” said Helene Gayle, MD, MPH '81, director of HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “We’re delighted to be able to help continue and expand the Institute’s pioneering work.”
The Gates Institute will continue “developing core leadership in family planning through organized collaborative research and leadership forums in the United States and abroad.” The forums will address cutting-edge family-planning issues and strategies in the context of other health challenges.
The Gates Institute will also continue to invest in sustainable partnerships with key academic institutions in the developing world. The goal is for these institutions to provide training that will build local leadership with a strong commitment to population and reproductive health and to carry out research on significant policy issues. The Institute plans to collaborate with up to 25 institutions in 23 priority countries.
“The need for individual and institutional leadership focused on sustained commitment to family planning, sexual health care, and maternity care has never been greater,” said Amy Tsui, PhD, director of the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and professor in the School’s Department of Population and Family Health Sciences. “An investment in building that leadership capacity now will produce future dividends by enabling families and communities to improve and protect their health.”