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July 21, 2020

The Challenge Initiative at the Bloomberg School of Public Health Receives Two Grants to Support Family Planning for Women and Girls in Poor Urban Areas

Awards from Bayer AG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation totaling $18.1 million recognize crucial need to continue family planning programs during COVID-19 pandemic

The Challenge Initiative (TCI), a global initiative based at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that supports the reproductive health needs of women and girls living in poor urban communities in Africa and Asia, has received grants totaling $18.1 million from Bayer AG and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

TCI supports 95 cities in implementing urban reproductive health solutions across 10 countries in four regions: East Africa, Francophone West Africa, Nigeria, and India. TCI is based at the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute on Population and Reproductive Health (Gates Institute) at the Bloomberg School.

The awards—$10.6 million from Bayer and $7.5 million from the Gates Foundation—cover a 15-month period beginning July 1, 2020, and will allow TCI to continue providing evidence-based, high-impact solutions to city governments seeking to improve access to contraception and family planning services. TCI works with city governments and health systems and offers an ideal platform for integrating COVID-19 prevention and messaging into its ongoing family planning activities.

“Bayer and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation both understand how vitally important it is to continue providing women and girls with contraception during this pandemic,” said Jose Rimon II, MA, senior scientist and TCI’s principal investigator and director of the Gates Institute. “While lockdowns and partial reopenings limit access to reproductive health supplies and services, TCI has designed innovative programming to overcome challenges in service delivery, demand generation, advocacy, and management and coordination posed by the pandemic.”

TCI provides participating cities with an innovative approach to rapidly and sustainably scale high-impact family planning and reproductive health solutions for women and girls living in poverty. TCI strengthens city governments and health systems, and also offers an . TCI has been able to continue to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic through its “university without walls,” which includes a web-based learning system that allows remote and distance education and a robust community of more than 5,000 users.

In addition to its grant, Bayer will support a scholarship and fellows’ program at the Bloomberg School to train a new generation of leaders in reproductive health.

“We have been grateful for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s generous support of family planning over the years and are thrilled about this new collaboration with colleagues at Bayer,” says Cynthia Minkovitz, MD, MPP, William H. Gates Sr. Professor and Chair in Population, Family, and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School. “We have evidence from the Ebola outbreak that shows how a pandemic can derail family planning programs.”

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Media contacts: Barbara Benham at bbenham1@jhu.edu and Kim Martin at kim.martin@jhu.edu.


For more information on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, visit our COVID-19 Expert Insights site.