Public Release: 

USAID awards $30M grant to Georgetown's Institute for Reproductive Health

Georgetown University Medical Center

WASHINGTON (July 21, 2015) -- The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $30 million to Georgetown University Medical Center's Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) to fund its Passages Project, which aims to improve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies among youth and first-time parents in developing countries.

The five-year Passages Project grant allows researchers to develop and test scalable approaches to fostering social norms that support healthy behaviors, such as the belief that women and men have equal rights and responsibilities in family planning.

"This award underscores the critical contributions Georgetown researchers are making to our global health outreach," says Edward Healton, MD, MPH, executive vice president at GUMC and executive dean of the Georgetown University School of Medicine. "Through this work, we're able to broadly impact populations in the developing world in keeping with Georgetown's commitment to serving those most in need."

IRH will lead a team of global health experts to implement this project, including those from FHI 360, Johns Hopkins Global Early Adolescent Study, Population Services International, Save the Children and Tearfund. Initial focus will include countries in Africa and Asia where the IRH has been active for a number of years.

"Early pregnancy and child marriage are a reality for millions of young women worldwide, curtailing their educational and vocational opportunities, leading to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes and contributing to the intergenerational cycle of poverty," explains IRH Director of Research Rebecka Lundgren, PhD.

"Enabling young women and men to live lives free of violence, coerced sex and unintended pregnancy is essential if countries are to realize their development goals," she says. "The Passages Project will capitalize on transitional moments in young people's lives that shape social norms."

IRH will lead the Passages consortium in research to test and scale up interventions that promote collective change--through media, advocacy, community campaigns/mobilization, and discussions within social networks and among community leaders.

"We believe that by applying implementation science principles we will come to better understand what makes interventions effective in real-world contexts," Lundgren says. "Applying a variety of evaluation approaches, we will address socially complex issues including gender inequality, stigma and violence, and focus on scalability--considering cost, complexity and adaptability."

Victoria Jennings, PhD, director of IRH, points out, "Through the Passages Project, we are building on almost three decades of experience in developing evidence-based programs that address critical needs in sexual and reproductive health. The Passages approach--focusing on social norms and targeting individuals at transitional life moments--offers a unique opportunity to address significant development challenges." Over the past 30 years, IRH has been awarded over $200 million in grants to implement health and development projects.

The US AID grant is from its Office of Population and Reproductive Health. Work supported by the grant began this month.

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About the Institute for Reproductive Health

The Institute for Reproductive Health is dedicated to expanding family planning choices to meet the needs of women and men worldwide; advancing gender equality by helping women and men across the lifecycle learn about and take charge of their reproductive health; and involving communities in reproductive health interventions that improve their wellbeing. As part of Georgetown University Medical Center's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the Institute conducts research to develop fertility awareness-based methods of family planning and tests them in diverse service delivery settings.

About Georgetown University Medical Center

Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through MedStar Health). GUMC's mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis -- or "care of the whole person." The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing & Health Studies, both nationally ranked; Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute; and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization, which accounts for the majority of externally funded research at GUMC including a Clinical and Translational Science Award from the National Institutes of Health.

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