More From the Blog

  • Youth and long-acting, reversible contraception: Confronting the myths with truth

    Youth and contraception: two words that when used together excite visceral responses throughout the world. The response is even more fraught when we consider long-acting, reversible contraceptives (LARCs) for youth. Both intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are LARCs, and the challenges for young people who wish to use them — lack of access, myths and misconceptions, provider bias and community stigma — are pervasive. We have to understand more about these challenges in order to overcome them.

    In late May 2015, FHI 360 and partners — U.S. Agency for International Development, PSI, MSI and Pathfinder International’s Evidence to Action project — sponsored a symposium, called “For Youth, a Healthy Option With LARCs” in Washington, DC. The meeting convened more than 100 experts from around the world, including program advisors and implementers, researchers, health providers, donors and advocates, as well as young people themselves. The meeting’s goal was to encourage participants to share experiences, tackle tough questions and advocate for wider access to LARCs for young women.

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  • A call for new thinking in the new systems age

    Paul BundickAs human development practitioners, we have been talking a lot recently about how a changing world is demanding new approaches to development in the way we finance, implement our projects and measure the results of our work. But what has been missing is a discussion about how to change the way we think about the world and mental models we use as we try to make our world a better place. While we all agree that the world has changed, our mental models lag behind, and we desperately need a mental model upgrade.

    Otto Scharmer, an economist, organization theorist and keynote speaker at the upcoming Challenge Conference in Washington, DC, wrote in Leading from the Emerging Future, “The success of our actions as change-makers does not depend on what we do or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate.” In other words, our awareness provides the underlying ground out of which our thinking and doing emerge.

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  • Integrated investments in youth have the power to reap dividends for all

    Tricia Petruney

    With a new global development agenda on the horizon, debates abound over which actions and investments will be the most influential for meeting the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Arguments for or against narrow, targeted solutions are becoming increasingly lost in the cacophony. Meanwhile, demand is growing for discussions that better reflect the complex, interrelated nature of the updated goals and targets.

    One promising framework for sharpening this dialogue focuses on the next generation — youth — and how strategically integrated investments in their well-being can accelerate progress toward the SDGs, reaping dividends for everyone along the way. Integrated development strategies have the potential to provide today’s massive youth population with the knowledge and skills to grow into healthy, successful adults.

    There are currently 1.8 billion young people in the world between the ages of 10 to 24, and among this largest generation of youth in history, 89 percent live in less developed countries. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa the median age is roughly 18 years old versus around 38 in North America and 41 in Europe.

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  • 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.

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  • The power of ICT to catalyze learning

    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.

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    It’s time we broaden the definition of country ownership

    Over 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.

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

    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.

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

    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.

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  • Math identity is the key to girls’ math success

    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.

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  • A new funding climate demands unlikely partnerships

    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.

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