Envisioning a world in which youth are at the center of their reproductive lives


Two landmark studies provide evidence to recommend earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy

By Leanne Gray, Communications Specialist, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on Crowd360. Reposted with permission.

Myron Cohen

Myron Cohen presents results of HPTN 052 at a press conference on Monday, July 20, 2015, in Vancouver. Photo: Leanne Gray/FHI 360

Final results from two research studies presented at IAS 2015 yesterday demonstrated clear scientific evidence on the benefits of early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART). Building on early results of HPTN 052 released in May 2011 that then showed a 96 percent reduction in HIV transmission, the study results presented yesterday provide conclusive evidence that ART should be provided to all HIV-positive people as soon as they are diagnosed for the benefit of both themselves and their sexual partners.

Jens Lundgren of the University of Copenhagen presented the initial results of the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, a randomized trial looking at whether starting ART in people with CD4+ cell counts above 500 cells/mm3, rather than waiting for CD4+ cell counts to drop below 350 cells/mm3, reduces the occurrence of serious morbidity and mortality. START was recently unblinded by the international Data & Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) 18 months early due to data that showed very clear benefits of immediate treatment versus delayed treatment. Previous studies and guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggested that ART should not be given to patients unless they had symptomatic HIV and/or CD4+ counts that were below 350 cells/mm3. The interim results from START show that ART is safe and effective for all HIV-infected persons regardless of CD4+ count. (more…)

The power of ICT to catalyze learning

By Rebecca Potts, Program Officer, Global Learning Business Unit, FHI 360


One effective way of improving the quality of education in low- and middle-income countries is to invest in information and communications technology (ICT).

Providing schools with internet access and computer hardware opens doors to an abundance of information that teachers and students can use to make lessons more relevant and effective. Teachers can use online portals to connect with each other and to share lesson plans and best practices, while students can use ICT to access online libraries and to master new technologies.

Many of FHI 360’s education projects use ICT as a tool to enhance the quality of teaching and learning, encourage community participation in education and increase school access. Bringing ICT to middle school classrooms in Senegal was a critical part of FHI 360’s Education de Base project. This project, which was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development and reached more than 93,000 students and 4,500 teachers in Senegal, won the Innovating Secondary Education Skills Enhancement Prize from the group Results for Development. The prize was awarded, in large part, because of its effective use of ICT. (more…)

It’s time we broaden the definition of country ownership

By Patrick Fine, Chief Executive Officer, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on Devex. Reposted with permission.

Patrick FineOver the past 15 years, country ownership has become one of the central tenets of the aid effectiveness agenda and a part of every development worker’s vocabulary. Yet, we have never adequately reconciled the concept of ownership with the need for a country to be accountable for its policies, including controlling patronage and corruption.

This is partly because both donors and their development partners are willing to treat development partnerships and activities as technical interventions insulated from local politics rather than explicitly recognizing that the allocation of scarce resources, including foreign aid, is inherently political.

This tendency has resulted in country ownership being defined in a narrow, unidirectional manner that makes confronting the binding policy constraints to economic and social progress much more difficult. In these circumstances, the concept of country ownership is too often invoked to protect the status quo instead of advancing sustainable development.

Read the remainder of the blog here.

Connecting the dots: Advancing contraceptive R&D through partnerships and knowledge sharing

By Laneta Dorflinger, Distinguished Scientist, Director of Contraceptive Technology Innovation, Kate Rademacher, Technical Advisor, Contraceptive Technology Innovation, and Lucy Wilson, Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor, Contraceptive Technology Innovation, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on Impatient Optimists, the blog of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Reposted with permission.

CTI Exchange

To optimize opportunities to make groundbreaking advances in contraceptive research and development (R&D), the global health community must help connect the dots to facilitate new partnerships between groups that often work in silos. For example, there is the company in the United States that is developing a promising drug delivery platform but hasn’t yet considered applying the research to contraceptive products. There is the university scientist who has an idea for a new contraceptive product but is unsure whether similar investments are being made in the private sector. There is the small company based in the global South that wants to enter the international market but lacks experience registering its contraceptive products in sub-Saharan Africa. (more…)

Improving adolescent sexual and reproductive health in Bangladesh through the Sustainable Development Goals

By Kathrin Tegenfeldt, Bangladesh Country Director and Kate Plourde, Technical Officer, FHI 360

Photo: Shehab Uddin/DRIK

Photo: Shehab Uddin/DRIK

In mid-June, we had the opportunity to attend a national consultation with members of Parliament in Bangladesh on integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights into the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The consultation was hosted by the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh with support from the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

Bangladesh has made impressive strides toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals. It has met the gender parity goals for primary and secondary education and is on track to fulfill the tertiary education goals. Bangladesh has also met the under-five mortality-reduction rate goal and is likely to reach the goal of reducing maternal mortality. (more…)

Math identity is the key to girls’ math success

By Merle Froschl and Barbara Sprung, Co-Directors, Educational Equity, FHI 360

Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

Girls get the message — from the toys they play with, the TV shows they watch and the attitudes of their parents, teachers and peers — that math is NOT for them! From an early age, girls are taught that math success is about an innate ability that they lack and that being feminine and being good at math are mutually exclusive.

As a result, girls do not develop a positive math identity — an identity that research tells us is key to their interest, participation and persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and careers. Without a solid background in math, girls will not develop the critical STEM skills that will be required for 60 percent of the new jobs that will become available in the 21st century.

There are two pillars of a positive math identity: the belief that you can do math and the belief that you belong. Identity is fluid and dynamic. It is developed through social practice, and it is through social practice that learners develop a sense of who they are. There is no such thing as a “math gene” or a “math brain,” but the myth is perpetuated, and it is particularly harmful to girls and students of color. Teachers and parents often unconsciously convey stereotyped messages that girls do not need to be good in math. (more…)

A new funding climate demands unlikely partnerships

By Olumide Elegbe, Senior Relationship Manager, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on InterAction. Reposted with permission.

Olumide Elegbe

Photo: Leanne Gray/FHI 360

The emergence of the private sector as a development actor is a potentially game-changing trend. The reason for its emergence is clear: Official development assistance to the least developed countries continues to decrease and international human development is increasingly becoming part of the core business of corporations. But what remains open for debate is the scope of the private-sector involvement in global human development and whether corporate money should play a role in global development at all.

Partnerships between nonprofits and businesses already exist. They range from corporate philanthropy, to corporate social responsibility, to shared value partnerships. Over the past several years, USAID has established an office for transformational partnerships as part of its Global Development Lab, while organizations such as the U.K. Department for International Development have taken an approach that focuses on poverty reduction through market development and catalyzing private enterprise.

Many large nonprofits are heavily dependent on one donor stream. This means that their systems, processes and tools are geared toward providing services to their largest client, making it potentially difficult to adapt to other partners.

However, a diversified funding base can make an organization more secure, flexible and responsive. The private sector has expertise that can be leveraged to increase the impact of development programs. (more…)

Saplings and contraceptives: Results from a population, health and environment project in Kenya

By Theresa Hoke, Director, Health Services Research, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on New Security Beat, the blog of the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program. Reposted with permission.

Father’s Day is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the role of male engagement in family planning throughout the world. As FHI 360 expert Theresa Hoke describes in this blog, innovative solutions are needed to support women and couples, including men, in poor, remote rural areas in achieving the number and timing of pregnancies they desire.

GVs-in-red-shirts_540x388East African countries like Kenya have made great strides in recent decades in increasing access to modern contraception, leading to marked declines in fertility rates. But disparities remain.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey showed that rural women have a total fertility rate of 4.5 children per woman versus 3.1 for urban women, and the poorest women have more than twice as many children on average than the wealthiest. Meanwhile, unmet need for contraception among poor and rural Kenyan women is higher than any other groups. Clearly, innovative solutions are needed to support women and couples in poor, remote rural areas in achieving the number and timing of pregnancies they desire. (more…)

Advancing a no-missed-opportunities approach through integrating family planning and immunization services

By Chelsea Cooper, Jhpiego, Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Advisor; Kate Rademacher, FHI 360 Technical Advisor; Rebecca Fields, John Snow Inc. (JSI), Senior Technical Advisor, Immunization

A version of this post originally appeared here on K4Health. Reposted with permission.

A no-missed-opportunities approach recognizes that every service contact presents an opportunity to comprehensively address women’s and children's health needs. Credit: Chelsea Cooper, MCHIP

A no-missed-opportunities approach recognizes that every service contact presents an opportunity to comprehensively address women’s and children’s health needs. Credit: Chelsea Cooper, MCHIP

When Lorpu*, a mother in Liberia, brought her baby to a clinic to receive routine immunizations, she was also counseled about family planning and offered a contraceptive method. Lorpu expressed relief about having received same-day provision of both family planning and immunization services: “When I go for [my child’s] vaccine, I can also get family planning. I don’t have to leave and come back.”

Lorpu received these integrated services as part of a pilot program in Liberia implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) predecessor flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) and the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. In participating clinics, women who brought their infants for routine immunization services were provided brief messages about family planning by the vaccinator and offered a referral for same-day services. This approach, now used by MCHIP’s successor program, the flagship Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP), has led to substantial increases in family planning uptake, and women have expressed positive feedback about the convenience of having access to both family planning and immunization services during the same visit.

Integrated health care delivery is critical in the year after childbirth, when there are numerous opportunities to reach women and their infants with services — including postnatal care, immunization, growth monitoring and family planning. A no-missed-opportunities approach recognizes that every service contact presents an opportunity to comprehensively address women’s and children’s health needs. (more…)

A successful project keeps girls in school in Kenya

By Ahlam Kays, Project Director, Gender Department, FHI 360

Today’s FHI 360 Gender 360 Summit in Washington, DC, will focus on ways to achieve gender equality. Four Pillars PLUS is one of several projects that FHI 360 has undertaken to improve outcomes and increase equality among girls, boys, women and men.

In most primary and secondary schools in sub-Saharan Africa, girls and boys learn math, science, language, art and history along with other subjects. Seldom do they receive the critical information they need to keep them safe, healthy and able to withstand the challenges that threaten their well-being and basic right to education. Completing a full cycle of education can become little more than a dream.

Turning the dream of education into a reality was the driving force behind the Four Pillars PLUS project. With funding from the GE Foundation, FHI 360 launched this robust girls’ education, mentoring and empowerment project in the counties of Kisumu and Siaya in Kenya. (more…)