FEATURED POST

Does 1+1=3? Proving the integration hypothesis

integrationhypothesis-100x100
EducationGenderHealthYouth

In her own voice: A youth leader explains why mentoring and girls’ education are vital in Kenya

Photo by Zack Langway/Johnson & Johnson

Juliah, 18, is a peer educator who participates in FHI 360’s Four Pillars PLUS project in Kenya. Funded by the GE Foundation, the project uses a model of student scholarships, professional development for teachers, mentoring of girls and community participation to improve the quality and relevance of education for orphans and other children, especially girls, in secondary school. Another component of the project is addressing the challenges of youth employment by helping young women successfully transition from school to the workforce.

Juliah was invited to New York City by Johnson & Johnson. She is participating in a youth storytelling session related to Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 on improving the health of children and women.

Q: What challenges do girls in Kenya face in receiving a quality education?

A: First, there is the barrier of poverty. The high cost of school fees often does not allow girls to enroll in school, because they cannot afford the books, supplies and uniforms. Even if they can pay their fees, they often cannot afford menstrual hygiene products, and without them, their learning is interrupted due to school absence. Next, discrimination in society and school makes it difficult for girls. Girls are only seen as future mothers, wives and caretakers. They are not seen as capable of tackling difficult subjects such as math and science. Because of this, girls often have low self-esteem and lose interest in school. They also fear sexual harassment and violence, which can make traveling to and from school dangerous. Finally, girls are expected to take on many more household duties than boys and often cannot devote adequate time to their studies, causing them to fall behind.

Q: How has the Four Pillars PLUS project made a difference to you?

A: Four Pillars PLUS paid for my school fees at a boarding school, where I was able to get a quality of education that many girls could not. At boarding school, I had more time to study because I no longer had to do chores until late in the evening. I did not have to fear for my safety as I did when I walked long distances between school and my home each day. As a result, I studied hard and finished secondary school with a B+ average.

Receiving mentoring helped me to deal with discrimination. It allowed me to see myself as a person with the same opportunities as boys. (more…)

GenderHealthNutrition

Pushing for progress on maternal, newborn and child health

By Dr. Timothy Mastro, FHI 360 Director, Global Health, Population and Nutrition

Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

The numbers are shocking. Each year, 2.8 million babies die during their first 28 days of life, while almost 800 women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth.

A vast majority of these deaths are preventable through simple interventions: providing mothers and their children with access to basic, quality health care, especially during pregnancy and childbirth; encouraging mothers to breastfeed; and treating diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading killers of children under 5 years of age.

Despite the impressive progress that has been made in recent years, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (MDGs 4, 5 and 6) by 2015 will require an all-out global push.

In June, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a major realignment of US$2.9 billion of its resources to “save up to half of a million children from preventable deaths by the end of 2015.” In addition, USAID introduced an ambitious strategy, Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths, to dramatically increase progress in 24 countries that account for 70 percent of child and maternal deaths.

This is an important policy shift — one that has the potential to have great impact on development by saving the lives of 15 million children and nearly 600,000 women by 2020. FHI 360, a member of the Advisory Group for Acting on the Call, supports USAID’s commitment. We have seen how evidence-based interventions in maternal, newborn and child health are making a difference in communities around the world. (more…)

A new commitment to advancing integrated development

FHI 360 is launching a major initiative in New York City during CGI’s Annual Meeting through a Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action. This investment will help FHI 360 and its partners explore the benefits and challenges of integrated programing. We will study whether and how integrated programs produce an amplified impact, and if so, to what degree these approaches are cost-efficient and sustainable.

In a video message, CEO Patrick Fine called the commitment an unprecedented opportunity for FHI 360 and its partners to collectively reflect on what the development community is doing well and how we can leverage resources to build a better, safer and more prosperous world for all.

FHI 360 makes a commitment to integrated development from FHI 360 on Vimeo.

(more…)

Health

Building momentum for sexual and reproductive health in the post-2015 dialogue

By Tricia Petruney, FHI 360 Technical Advisor and Ward Cates, FHI 360 Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus

A version of this post originally appeared here on The Huffington Post. Reposted with permission.

Sexual and reproductive health, which includes access to family planning and HIV prevention and treatment, is increasingly being linked to progress across all areas of development. As the United Nations Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development comes closer to finalizing the post-2015 global development goals, a growing crescendo of voices is commenting on where we stand with regard to meeting the sexual and reproductive health needs of the world’s girls, women and couples and is offering ideas on how to move ahead. We are also seeing important shifts in policy.

There are many examples that illustrate the lively dialogue that is now happening on sexual and reproductive health.

An article in the journal Contraception acknowledges that although significant, measurable progress on sexual and reproductive health has been made in the two decades since the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), momentum on key areas of family planning has slowed in recent years.

New commentaries in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization and The Lancet summarize the evidence for why universal access to family planning should be a key component of the post-2015 development agenda. Additional commentaries in The Lancet and Global Health: Science and Practice Journal offer actionable recommendations for meeting global demand for family planning. Finally, Womenatthecenter.org, an exciting new website, is sharing “inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health and rights, empowerment and environmental sustainability.” (more…)

Does 1+1=3? Proving the integration hypothesis

By Patrick Fine, Chief Executive Officer, FHI 360

A version of this post originally appeared here on The Huffington Post. Reposted with permission.

Last month, we began the 500-day countdown to the conclusion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Policymakers, the private sector, civil society groups and academics worldwide are all taking stock of progress in achieving the eight MDGs and asking, “Where are the gaps? What can we do differently? What would a post-2015 framework look like?”

While we don’t yet have the answers to these questions, it is clear that there is much more work to be done. We are now living in a world where emerging economic, technological and demographic shifts have created more sophisticated and demanding challenges. From dramatic climate changes and rapid urbanization to a growing youth bulge, these shifts are putting previous investments at risk and forcing us to rethink how to tackle increasingly complex development challenges.

We need to get smarter about how we approach development.

On September 23rd in New York, as world leaders gather at the United Nations, an important conversation will be taking place down the street. Moderated by Al Jazeera journalist Femi Oke, a discussion titled “Does 1+1=3? Proving the Integration Hypothesis” will bring together academics, funders and representatives of governments, business and implementing organizations to reignite a discussion on integrated approaches to human development. (more…)

HealthResearch

Perspectives on how implementation science can improve global health

By Theresa Hoke, Director, Health Services Research, FHI 360 and Rose Wilcher, Director, Research Utilization, FHI 360

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Lynd

What is implementation science, and what can it do for the field of global health?

Earlier this month, FHI 360 brought together over 150 public health specialists, researchers, scholars and donors in Washington, DC, for a day-long symposium to wrestle with these questions.

One clear conclusion emerged: There is no single definition for implementation science. Symposium speakers used definitions including: the scientific study of methods to promote the integration of research findings and evidence-based interventions into health care practice and policy (U.S. National Institutes of Health); the application of systematic learning, research and evaluation to improve health practice, policy and programs (U.S. Agency for International Development); and the study of methods to improve the uptake, implementation and translation of research findings into routine practices (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief).

Despite the lack of consensus on definitions, symposium participants agreed that implementation science can make essential contributions to global health. Setting implementation science apart from other research disciplines is its focus on how to implement proven interventions in real-world contexts, delivered at scale. Noting that implementation occurs within complex systems, Greg Aarons of the University of California, San Diego, introduced participants to frameworks that help us consider the interaction of factors that affect the success of the implementation process. (View the symposium’s presentations and webcast.) (more…)

Health

Family planning: A look at the past, the present and the future

By Ward Cates, FHI 360 Distinguished Scientist and President Emeritus

Photo: Jessica Scranton/FHI 360

In 1971, the world was a different place demographically. Our planet was mostly agrarian, family sizes were large and birth control was unavailable. That year, FHI 360’s heritage organization, the International Fertility Research Program, was created to perform clinical trials of emerging contraceptive technologies, such as oral hormonal contraception and intrauterine devices (IUDs). These studies helped jump-start global family planning programs, creating health services for women where none had previously existed.

1994: Setting a new agenda
Fast forward to 1994, the year of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD). This pivotal global event caused a seismic shift in family planning, from concern about population growth to a commitment to reproductive rights and justice. Women’s empowerment took center stage. Issues related to sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV, were folded into the sexual and reproductive health agenda.

The ICPD also strengthened voluntary family planning as a fundamental human right. This enabled women and couples to determine the timing and spacing of their pregnancies. With control over their fertility, women improved both their personal health and their career aspirations. Family size preferences decreased, and the demand for more effective, longer-acting contraception increased.

Family planning drives development
Today, the shift from larger to smaller families represents one of the most important transformations in developing regions. This shift was made possible in large part by the increased availability of modern contraception. Demographers have traditionally defined “modern” as any method other than “traditional” (for example, natural family planning and withdrawal). During the past two decades, evidence has demonstrated the contributions that family planning can make to global health and development, including progress toward the Millennium Development Goals. (more…)

Civil SocietyTechnology

Anticipating the impact of cutting-edge technology on democracy and development

By Wayan Vota, Senior Mobile Advisor, FHI 360 and Matthew Pietz, Director, Civil Society, FHI 360

Photo: Menno van Dijk/iStockPhoto

What might nongovernmental organizations, governments and world leaders have done differently if, fifteen years ago, they could have predicted the transformative effect that mobile phones and Internet access would have on the world’s poorest countries? What can we do now, if we look far enough down the road, to anticipate the next waves of revolutionary technology?

Technology has brought us to the doorstep of a world once only imaginable. Google cars now drive themselves across California. An autonomously piloted drone can be purchased on Amazon.com. Computers are acting more and more like people. This year, one passed the Turing test, a measurement of a machine’s ability to mimic human behavior. There are working prototypes of spray-on skin and mind-controlled prosthetic limbs. A thousand robots can work together to complete a common task. Things are changing fast.

These technologies will shape the future of the world and change development as we know it.

Funders, governments, practitioners and technology leaders need to anticipate the impact of emerging innovations on democracy and human rights and plan accordingly. Technology can empower activists and dictators alike. To be prepared, we should start asking questions, such as: How will development and civic engagement change when citizens in the most remote parts of the world have access to the Internet? How might drone journalism provide safe, reliable access to conflict-affected parts of the world? How can wearable technology innovations like Google Glass make citizens freer or, conversely, be misused by governments to monitor and control citizens? (more…)

Economic Development

Advancing economic development: Meeting systems challenges in a complex world

By Paul Bundick, PhD, Director, FIELD-Support Leader with Associates Program

The term “results oriented” has become a new buzzword in international development. Its near-universal usage among funders and practitioners suggests our industry has failed to give sufficient attention to measuring meaningful outcomes along with associated costs.

The drive to do more with less has given rise to the measurement imperative — the use of rigorous quantitative methods to establish fundamental relationships between a few variables with the aim of identifying simple causal pathways to pre-established indicators of success. As a corollary, we find an increasing emphasis on accountability to better control the production of intended results as cost-effectively as possible.

Who can argue with the need for doing more with less? As serious practitioners of social and economic change, we accept this moral imperative of being held accountable — to our fellow citizens, to our funders, to our clients and to ourselves. Yet, there is something missing. It is as if we have reduced our understanding of reality and all of its complexity to fit the limitations of our methods. This view feels incomplete and needs some major re-envisioning.

Anyone who has ever implemented a project will agree that many results are neither intended nor direct. The causal pathways that underlie our work are usually far from simple. Reality often diverges significantly from the results framework to which we are held accountable. Effects are often subtle, indirect, mediated or delayed. It is difficult to know what will actually happen in a system unless the parameters are highly constrained and the all-important context is artificially removed. How do we reconcile the need for achieving results and accountability within a more complex, interrelated yet unpredictable understanding of reality? (more…)

Education

Tapping the potential of literacy for conflict mitigation

By Emily Koester, FHI 360 Literacy Technical Officer

Development organizations are increasingly being asked to provide education in places that have been torn apart by wars and other conflicts. Reading and writing instruction is often pushed to the forefront of education-in-conflict interventions, because literacy is a foundational skill for future education and success in the workforce. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) goal of improving the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015 emphasizes the value of literacy.

Importantly, literacy also offers the potential to mitigate conflict. Instructional materials to develop literacy can include stories that model peaceful problem solving, value diversity (through characters who identify with various ethnic groups, for example) and communicate important information about safety and emergency measures.

Despite the possible benefits, building literacy in conflict situations is complex. Common challenges, such as limited materials and infrastructure, militarized populations and psychosocial trauma, require substantial creativity and innovation in literacy programming. FHI 360 is addressing these challenges in three key ways:

First, we are gaining knowledge to inform practice. Education in conflict is an understudied field, and very little is known about best practices for literacy instruction in conflict contexts. In 2014, JBS International commissioned an important research report by Lesley Bartlett and Zeena Zakharia, which provided “the first steps in developing a framework for literacy education in conflict- and crisis-affected contexts.” (more…)