Education

  • USAID Highlights FHI 360’s Work on Education in El Salvador

    I live in the Zaragoza region, one of the poorest areas in central El Salvador.  We have limited economic development opportunities for our people, yet one of the highest rates of population density in the country.  While grappling with poverty, our municipality must also deal with gang activity and school violence.

    In order to respond to this situation, my school joined with 12 other schools to form a cluster under the Ministry of Education’s Integrated System for Full Time School (SI-EITP, its acronym in Spanish).  SI-EITP is supported by USAID/El Salvador’s Strengthening Basic Education Program.

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  • U.S. Education Blog Series: Prepared to Succeed


  • The Domino Effect of Family Planning

    Imagine a line of dominos stretched out as far as the eye can see, with additional lines branching off into the distance. This web of dominos represents the multiple connections between family planning and every dimension of sustainable development. What many still don’t comprehend is how large and far reaching this web truly is.

    We’ll begin with a simple and intuitive causal relationship: voluntary use of contraception prevents unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancies result in thousands of deaths globally and many more disabilities each year. Many unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Almost half of the 40 million abortions performed each year are unsafe, placing nearly 20 million women at risk for infection, hemorrhage, disability, and death. Thus, contraception prevents unintended pregnancies and saves women’s lives.

    Dr. Ward Cates, President Emeritus at FHI 360, visits health workers that are involved with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded Urban Health Initiative (UHI) in India.

    And the benefits of family planning don’t end with women. Families using contraception have fewer, healthier children and reduced economic burden. Children born to mothers who have used modern contraception in planning their families are not only more likely to have a mother, and one who is healthy, they also are more likely to have been breast fed for longer and received more parental attention, support and resources than children born in to families that were not planned. All of these factors increase the chances that they will survive infancy into childhood. Therefore, family planning also saves children’s lives. Moreover, if after childhood girls and women are given control over their fertility, they are more likely to stay in school and to get jobs. Educated, employed women are in turn more likely to use contraception, thus re-initiating the virtuous cycle of benefits that family planning brings to women and their families.

    The benefits still don’t end there. Ensuring that we can feed our growing population while protecting the planet has quickly become one of the most pressing challenges in sustainable development. Regions of the world with the highest unmet need for family planning are already forced to bear the burden of climate change effects to which they have contributed the least. These effects include drought and famine. Turning an extra acre of forest into tilled land is not a choice for a woman without access to reproductive health resources. It is a matter of survival. And it is a preventable scenario. Right now more than 200 million women worldwide want to plan and time their pregnancies but are unable to do so for lack of information and access to contraceptive resources. If the percentage of women with unmet family planning needs remains constant, developing country populations are expected hit 9.7 billion by 2050, and 25.8 billion by 2100. By filling this need, we could greatly relieve some of the combined pressures being placed on resources and communities, including a growing demand for food.

    The right and ability of women and couples to plan their families is not peripheral to the aims and objectives of Rio+20. Indeed, the call for greater attention to women’s rights and issues at Rio+20 is growing into a crescendo. Women’s Major Group is mobilizing women across the world to share their stories and ensure that women’s rights are front and center on the agenda. Over 100 of the world’s leading scientific academies have called upon world leaders to enact rational, evidence-based responses to sustainable development challenges, including global access to comprehensive reproductive health resources.

    Until now, too few people have been aware and too few leaders willing to acknowledge the essential role that family planning plays in achieving sustainable development. Rio+20 is our chance to tip this pivotal domino piece forward, and witness the measurable cascade of progress it evokes.

  • Las Manos de Apá: The Hands of My Father

    What is Las Manos de Apá?

    Las Manos de Apá was a program FHI 360’s early childhood experts created and piloted with a grant from the Office of Head Start. We created a curriculum and materials that childcare workers and administrators in Head Start and Early Head Start programs could use to help the Latino fathers in their schools improve their parenting skills and better understand the early literacy needs of their children. The materials were used in Migrant and Seasonal Head Start programs in Michigan and New York.

    Why did this program target fathers specifically?

    We wanted to reach out to fathers because research shows that fathers are generally less involved in the Early Head Start and Head Start programs than other family members. In the migrant and seasonal programs, a lot of the dads are farm workers, and many are illiterate. We found that many dads who participated in Las Manos de Apa had very negative memories of their school experiences and didn’t understand the different stages of child development or how to engage with their children in early learning activities.

    It was very important to us that we engaged the fathers where they felt most comfortable. Many of the fathers fondly remembered the oral storytelling traditions in their culture, and many were exposed to these traditions in their early childhood years. So we used oral storytelling in the lessons to gain the fathers’ trust, build their confidence and engage with them in a way that would be comfortable and familiar. We were simultaneously building their parenting skills and teaching them how to relate to a three- or four-year-old child.

    What kinds of activities did the fathers do in the program?

    In one activity, the fathers learned how to make a book with their children. Even if the father could not read, he could encourage his child to draw pictures and teach his child to look at the book from the left to the right. Another activity the fathers did together was make bookshelves for their children. Some of the dads went all out and engraved their children’s names in the bookcases or added intricate details. That was a culminating activity for them. We also had speakers come to the fathers’ groups to talk about different issues. In another activity, the fathers gave presentations to the mothers.

    There was an opportunity over the three-year period for the program to have different mix of families. There were always new families added to the mix. Migrant and seasonal programs open and close according to the growing season of the area. But we tried to engage them all in social activities as well as the lessons. Things like soccer games and cookouts fostered the community the participants built.

    What did the fathers see as some of the outcomes of their participation in the program?

    Many fathers told us that initially they weren’t sure how to engage with their children, and they lacked confidence about how to interact with their young children. They said that because of the skills they learned in the program, they now talk with their children more and participate in more activities with their pre-schoolers. Overall, they said that they are spending much more quality time with their families. Many of them didn’t have father figures in their households growing up, so they didn’t have role models to follow. Now, they want to be role models for their children. They told us that this project gave them a lot of the tools to do that.

    For more information about the education work FHI 360 does in the United States visit our website.

  • Kosovo Teacher Innovation Recognized at International Forum

    Kosovo teachers Shkëndije Nagavci and Laura Pruthi display the award they received at the 2012 Microsoft Partners in Learning European Forum.

    Kosovo teachers Shkëndije Nagavci and Laura Pruthi were among 24 educators recognized for their innovative use of education technology at this year’s Microsoft Partners in Learning (PiL) European Forum held March 19-22 in Lisbon, Portugal. The teachers joined more than 250 educators from 40 European countries to showcase their work and exchange ideas about the effective use of technology to enhance 21st century teaching and learning. With this honor, Nagavci and Pruthi have earned the opportunity to join colleagues from around the world in the Global PiL Forum to be held this November in Athens, Greece.

    The pair qualified for the European Forum by placing first in a national competition organized by USAID’s Basic Education Program (BEP), a project managed by FHI 360, Microsoft Partners in Learning and Kosovo’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The competition is part of BEP’s efforts to encourage educators to integrate technology in to teaching and learning practices. According to Arsim Ilazi, BEP Education Technology Coordinator, a number of information sessions were held across Kosovo encouraging teachers to participate.

    “One of BEP’s primary goals is to deliver quality professional development across a number of strategic content areas,” Ilazi said. “Effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for teaching and learning is embedded across each of our accredited professional development courses, even the English language course. Kosovo teachers were eager to participate in this competition and appreciated the opportunity presented by Microsoft to demonstrate their knowledge and ideas in a broader forum.”

    Nagavci and Pruthi’s project, “Fractions Everywhere,” enlisted a range of engaging activities designed to provide a better understanding of a mathematical concept many students find challenging to master. Ilazi added that in developing their approach the teachers noticed measurable improvement in their students’ mathematical knowledge and skills. “Besides that, they also found that mathematics can be fun!”

    Kosovo Ministry of Education Science and Technology official Argjend Osmani addresses participants at the BEP-Microsoft Innovative Educator Forum in Kosovo.

    “Dr. Keith Prenton, BEP Chief of Party added, “Developing teacher capacity in the effective use of technology is one of the key areas identified by USAID and the Government of Kosovo to strengthen education reform efforts in Kosovo. BEP’s Professional Development activities, together with its components focused on School Management and Assessment will provide Kosovo with many of the critical elements needed to build a 21st century education system.” Prenton is no stranger to modernizing education systems in the Balkan region. Prior to assuming the lead at BEP, he managed a similar large-scale transformation effort for FHI 360 in Macedonia, Kosovo’s southern neighbor. In fact, after a similar success at last year’s PiL European Forum, a team of Macedonian teachers qualified for the PiL Global Forum held in Washington, DC last November and placed second in the “Educator’s Choice” category. “We invited the Macedonian team to the national competition here in Kosovo this year. Their success on the European and global stage served as a great source of inspiration for the teachers here in Kosovo.”

  • Committing to a postsecondary success agenda for all

    In a few weeks, thousands of Philadelphia public high school students will graduate. They will march down aisles to the familiar and always stirring “Pomp and Circumstance.”It will be an exciting day for these students, one that will fill them with a sense of accomplishment and optimism about the future.

    Rochelle Nichols-Solomon chats with Shameika Stone, a 10th grader at Mastery Charter School-Pickett Campus. Nichols-Solomon says a shared vision of college readiness and quality K-12 supports can make college attainable. Photo by Ronald J. Nichols

    But based on the postsecondary enrollment data that the Notebook highlights throughout this issue, that future will include a college education for only a few of those students.

    According to college-going data for the fall 2005 cohort of entering 9th graders, only a dismal 25 percent of students from neighborhood high schools enrolled in postsecondary education. The numbers are far below the rate for students from citywide admission schools (41 percent), charters (48 percent), and special admission schools (80 percent).

    These data are likely to set off a heated debate about why college enrollment rates are so low. Undoubtedly, they will fuel finger-pointing about the failures of public schools. In particular, they will send shockwaves about the neighborhood high schools.

    And despite almost instinctively knowing that some type of formal education beyond high school is a basic requirement in today’s society – and an aspiration most readers have for their own children – the data may lead some to think that with these low levels of college enrollment, nothing works … so why bother?

    To that question, I would argue that too few students in the neighborhood high schools are enrolling in college because we simply have not prepared them to do so. Despite the hard work of many, we haven’t yet achieved a coherent and shared understanding of what it means to be college- and career-ready, or a system aimed at that outcome for all students.

    Furthermore, not to advance a college or postsecondary success agenda in schools that serve almost exclusively low-income African American and Latino students is simply making the stick shorter for students and families that are already holding the short end of the stick. It is both morally and economically wrong.

    From my experience working with schools and communities all over the country to increase postsecondary success – most recently within the Citi Foundation-funded initiative in Miami, Philadelphia, and San Francisco – educators and community stakeholders will have a lot to say about the data.

    Reactions to the data

    I can predict those responses will basically fall into four camps.

    The first will make the well-intentioned, but low-hanging-fruit argument for focusing on high school graduation. This camp will vigorously shake their heads, reasoning that if students leave school – in other words, drop out – they can’t possibly graduate and therefore, have no chance of going on to college. I contend that this reflects low expectations that lead to weak student engagement and high dropout rates – or to students graduating high school who are neither college- nor work-ready.

    Some in this same group might also question the value of college, given our current economic crisis. But research suggests that college-educated workers are much more likely to be employed than their high school-educated counterparts, even during a recession. And furthermore, students with a postsecondary education will be better positioned to participate in the economic recovery, which sooner or later will occur.
    The second group will loudly sing praises for the good ol’ days of vocational education programs. They will frame vocational, or what is now known as career and technical education (CTE), as what all students need – particularly students in the neighborhood schools. But educator and writer Mike Rose points out that some fear the CTE push “could lead to new forms of tracking;” while others “applaud the presence of a vocational pathway, though worry that anti-vocational biases would still stigmatize the option.”

    The third group may register little more than snores because they operate under the assumption that not all students are college material. Hence there is simply nothing to be done in those neighborhood schools. Here, I’d invoke a “too big to fail” argument: This would mean giving up on more than half the 16,000 students represented in the cohort. It negates our responsibility to low-income students and families. It ignores the broader social purpose of education, which is fundamental to the well-being of a democratic society. In addition, abandoning our neighborhood schools will amount to economic Russian roulette, and won’t bode well for Philadelphia or for the nation’s ability to compete economically.

    Finally, the fourth group will insist that preparing for college is an imperative. They will likely shake their fists forcefully, declaring that the data are proof-positive that nothing short of the recently proposed blueprint for reorganizing the District will solve the problem. I would ask members of this camp to explain how the sustained changes, adequate resources, and strong will that we have to muster to create this new system of high-quality schools are any different from the sustained changes, adequate resources, and strong will we need to transform our current system of high schools.

    To those who do understand the imperative of preparing students for college, I’d strongly urge us to look beyond schools at the structural inequities that undermine college readiness and recommit to a postsecondary access and success agenda for all students.

    Hopeful directions

    Here are a few areas of promising work that help point the way forward:

    • Defining college readiness: Researchers like David Conley have given us a broader and more comprehensive, three-pronged definition for college readiness that includes academic preparation, academic behaviors (largely study skills and self-monitoring), and college awareness. Taken together, these three components can create a system of quality services and supports for all students that spans grades 9 through 12, and foster a college-going culture in schools, districts, and communities. Philadelphia is already partnering in a number of related national access and success initiatives aimed at creating a college access system, such as the Citi Postsecondary Success Program (CPSP).
    • Identifying assets: CPSP schools and their partners in Philadelphia, Miami, and San Francisco have used an asset analysis tool to facilitate conversations and planning around college access and success. It identifies gaps and builds on assets. This approach rightly assumes schools can’t do this work alone. It spotlights district practices and policies that help or hinder – and critical partners like higher education institutions, community-based organizations, and businesses that are needed to support this agenda.
    • Aligning high schools and higher ed: Schools and higher education institutions are working toward a better understanding and alignment of expectations for learning. For example, in Philadelphia, high school and college educators visit each others’ classrooms using an adapted model called Instructional Rounds. This approach is producing changes in high school English classes and first-year college writing classes in two- and four-year colleges.
    • Using data: To boost college awareness, Federal Student Aid now provides high schools and partners with current data about their FAFSA financial aid submissions and completions. Updated regularly, the online tool allows high schools to track their progress and helps them ensure that their students complete this vital application. Philadelphia was a pilot city for this work.

    Now, we could lament the data or devolve to pointing fingers at those we think are responsible for such low college enrollment and degree attainment.

    But I strongly urge that instead we develop a shared vision of college readiness. We also need to recommit to leveraging existing and new resources toward building a strong set of quality K-12 supports that will make college a viable option, especially for the thousands of mostly low-income and first-generation students in our public schools.

    To do anything less is unacceptable.


    Rochelle Nichols-Solomon is the director for postsecondary success at FHI 360, Center for School and Community Services. FHI 360 and the Public Education Network serve as national intermediary and technical support for the Citi Postsecondary Success Program (CPSP) a five-year initiative (2009-2013) to increase access to and success in college of underrepresented students in Miami-Dade, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. CPSP supports local education funds in leveraging programs and institutional policies to create a continuum of supports for students, working in partnership with the school system, higher education institutions, community-based organizations, the business community, and other sectors to promote systems change.

  • The importance of including healthy habits in education programs

    Why is it important that education programs include lessons on healthy lifestyle habits?

    We talk so much about reading and literacy in global education, but that is just one part of a child’s life. If we want to look at development in a holistic way, we have to look at a child in his or her entirety, not just his or her academic ability. There is plenty of evidence out there that shows that schools with better sanitary conditions attract more children. Parents vote with their feet, and if they see a school that is clean, has food and has hand-washing facilities, they are more likely to enroll their child in that school.

    How do you see this kind of integration playing out in global education programs?

    My dream is that we can inject health messages into teachers’ daily lesson planning, especially in primary education. Four major areas of concern are oral hygiene, handwashing and sanitation, malaria prevention and nutrition. Handwashing and proper use of latrines should be part of every school’s daily routine. Research shows that promoting handwashing in students, especially when they first arrive at school, greatly reduces the number of sick days among children.

    In Latin America, proper nutrition is a major issue. Children are eating, but they are not getting the proper nutrients. They tend to eat a lot of junk food that is easily accessible in their neighborhoods.

    Other than teachers, who else can help promote healthy habits in education?

    Part of the magic of FHI 360’s active learning methodology is that we integrate parents’ participation in very specific ways. We have done this by asking parents to help schools provide children with breakfast each morning, and we have engaged parent associations to improve sanitation in schools. By actively engaging parents in daily school routines, they not only participate in the success of the schools, but also learn healthy habits themselves. This takes some of the burden off of teachers.

  • Is Education Overlooking the Needs of Boys?

    In the early 1970s, many people began to question why girls did not seem interested in science and math and were not engaged in sports. Research demonstrated that it wasn’t because girls were incapable. Instead, socialization practices, teacher and parental expectations, and media messages told girls that these areas were “not for them.”

    So, people went into action. Policymakers put legislation like Title IX in place, and companies changed how girls and women were portrayed in textbooks. It took more than ten years, but eventually the situation improved for girls.

    All along, everybody assumed boys were doing just fine. But, current research shows that boys — particularly African-American and Latino boys — are being stigmatized in school. They are falling behind in reading and disengaging from school at a very early age, a trend that has disastrous long-term consequences.

    In a chapter titled “Improving Boys’ Achievement in Early Childhood and Primary Education,” published in Lessons in Educational Equality by Oxford University Press, 2012, we synthesize international research about the difficulties boys experience in school and strategies to remedy the situation. The chapter grows out of research and curricula around raising and educating healthy boys that we’ve been doing since 2000. In brief, we argue that the lack of success young boys are experiencing is a gender equity issue, and it calls for some of the strategies that have worked to address gender equity in girls’ education. As a first step, we recommend restoring early education to its roots: making time for play, social-emotional development and exploration.

    We found that in countries around the world, but especially the United States, even kindergarteners are spending an increasing amount of time being taught or tested in literacy and math. This mandated curriculum leaves little time for child-initiated learning or unstructured play and contributes to a rise in aggression and anxiety in young children. And, importantly, they don’t have the opportunity to develop critical social-emotional skills.

    Diminishing opportunities for play and prosocial learning are especially disastrous for boys. It sets boys up for increased likelihood of violence, lower academic achievement and eventually disproportionately high drop-out rates.

    International research is also finding that societal stereotypes about gender — ideas of what boys and girls are supposed to be like — contribute to boys’ lack of success in school.

    For instance, a focus group of teachers and parents said boys were expected to be strong and to hide their emotions; those who didn’t would suffer a host of consequences such as being bullied and ostracized. They also said that energetic boys were thought to be troublemakers.

    These expectations prevent boys from developing into psychologically healthy young men, and they often leave boys with the sense of being scrutinized, disliked or simply “bad.”

    We recommend that teacher education include discussions about gender attitudes and how they affect the way teachers relate to both boys and girls. Change will require intentional focus and concerted effort. But that kind of effort is possible. After all, advocates changed national policies and scaled up programs for girls a generation ago.

    To be sure, work on behalf of girls is not done. But we can apply some of that movement’s lessons to improving boys’ well-being and success in school. Ultimately, we believe that it is important to understand and meet all children’s needs in the classroom and that effective gender equity benefits both girls and boys.

  • The MAM program – led by FHI 360, GSMF, LSHTM and Health Partners Ghana, and funded by Pfizer – was established in 2007 to help close critical gaps in malaria prevention, treatment and education. Malaria is endemic in all parts of Ghana, with all 24.2 million people at risk. It accounts for over three million outpatient visits annually in the country and 30% of all deaths in children under five. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria, increasing the risk of severe anemia and death, as well as premature delivery, stillbirth and low birth weight in newborns.

    The MAM program educates Licensed Chemical Sellers (LCSs) – the local health authority and main suppliers of medicines across communities in Ghana – on malaria symptom recognition and treatment approaches. The program also involves community mobilization to educate patients, particularly the high-risk population of pregnant women and children under five, and strengthen their demand for quality care. Over 25% of malaria in Ghana is resistant to widely-available monotherapies. Combination therapies that address resistance issues were also cost-prohibitive for most of the population prior to the program.

    In addition to the barriers of cost and availability, there were also many common misconceptions held by community members and even LCSs. These included:

    • The belief that malaria is a common disease, is not dangerous and does not kill
    • The lack of knowledge that malaria is spread by mosquitoes
    • The impression that malaria is caused by heat, house flies, dirt, hard work or eating fatty/oily foods or unripe mangoes

    To address these issues in a comprehensive way, the MAM program includes health, education and even economic improvement aspects.

    A Licensed Chemical Seller explains how to provide appropriate dosing of malaria drugs based on the client’s age and weight, information she learned through the MAM training course.

    Health

    At the core of the program is reducing malaria-related morbidity and mortality in Ghana’s Ashanti region by improving malaria symptom recognition, treatment and referral. The program contributed to the advocacy that resulted in a declassification of combination anti-malarial drugs by the Ministry of Health. Subsequently, LCSs are now permitted to stock and dispense these drugs, bringing effective treatment into the communities. The program has reduced the time needed to obtain effective treatment by 40%. Through community mobilization, household knowledge of early signs of malaria has increased. Combination therapies are also now the most widely used treatment for malaria, increasing cure rates. The program established links so that community-level data is now being collected, analyzed and fed into the health system, helping to inform decision making at all levels and strengthening the connectivity between LCSs and the District and Regional Health Office.

    Education

    Robust education programs trained 1700 LCSs in Ghana to recognize the symptoms of malaria, refer complicated cases directly to health centers, and provide proper treatment and dosage for those who do not need a referral. As a result of the trainings, participating LCSs were elevated in the community for their expertise in malaria and are now recognized as part of the health system and a source of community-level data on malaria.

    A sign board on the outskirts of Kumasi alerting passer-bys to the dangers of malaria and the importance of prompt treatment.

    Economic Benefits

    There were economic benefits to both the program beneficiaries and the LCSs. Following training and education, participating LCSs became area experts on malaria, which increased traffic and built customer trust, often driving business growth.  The increased business helps to reinforce the value of MAM training and better customer service, making the program more sustainable. Community members also benefited from the program: the MAM program and its partners worked with the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) to apply for the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) from the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This approach resulted in a price reduction for combination therapy, thus making it affordable for lower-income members of the community. As a direct result, caregivers and mothers are spending less time at home caring for sick family members and more time at work or in income-generating activities.

    Programs like MAM improve lives by addressing more than health. Through the MAM project, LSC program participants have gained powerful expertise and improved their businesses in the process. And program beneficiaries have gained better knowledge of the signs of the disease, while gaining improved access to and lower costs for treatment. Although MAM is a health-centered program, it would not be as successful without a more comprehensive approach.

  • Innovation is key to expanding contraceptive choice

    Contraceptive technology has come a long way, but there is still much more work that needs to be done to increase women’s access to safe and effective contraceptive choices.

    Since Margaret Sanger overturned anti-contraceptive legislation in 1936, making it legal for doctors to provide diaphragms and spermicides to women, researchers have been working to develop improved contraceptive methods. Oral contraceptives were introduced to the public in the 1960s and paved the way for future innovation. Today, contraceptive hormones are delivered in a variety of ways, including through implants, long-acting injections, patches and vaginal rings.

    Yet there is still a gap in contraceptive technology that FHI 360 is working to fill – an effective, safe, easy-to-use, and low-cost vaginal contraceptive.

    FHI 360 has developed a new vaginal insert, made of soft, non-woven textile materials that can contain different types of vaginal gels. What makes this insert innovative is that it virtually eliminates leakage of the vaginal gel, a critical issue for both effectiveness and acceptability. The insert is packaged as a single-use, ready-to-use product, pre-moistened with medicated gel. Depending upon the type of gel, the device could be used to prevent pregnancy or HIV or to treat vaginal infections.

    Currently, the only over-the-counter vaginal contraceptives that are available are detergent-based spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 or similar agents. Detergent-based spermicides are irritating to vaginal tissues and with frequent use can cause ulcerations that could increase the risk of HIV infection.

    The insert could be used with new non-irritating spermicides such as BufferGel® (developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University) or with a ferrous gluconate formulation (developed by researchers at Cornell University). So far, the Hopkins and Cornell researchers have used other delivery methods, including diaphragms and vaginal rings, for their formulations. The FHI 360 insert could also be used to deliver microbicide gels, considered to be one of the most promising interventions to emerge over the past decade to prevent HIV infection in women.

    Results of a pivotal study, presented on September 17 at the Reproductive Health 2011 conference, showed that the combination of BufferGel and the new SILCS® diaphragm—a one-size-fits-all device—was as effective as a diaphragm with nonoxynol-9 gel. This is a double dose of innovation—a new, non-irritating spermicidal gel and a new one-size-fits-all diaphragm—and it’s great news for women.

    In 2009, we conducted a Phase I study to assess the acceptability of the FHI 360 insert among women and their male partners in Durban, South Africa, using the device saturated with 10 mL of an FDA-approved vaginal lubricant. We recruited 40 women, who first inserted and removed the device at the clinic and then at home. For home use, we asked women to discuss the product with their male partner and—if their partner agreed—to wear it during intercourse.

    Participants found the insert easy to place in the vagina and easy to remove with minimal to non-existent leakage. Most men (34) agreed to have intercourse with the device in place. Participants reported that the insert was comfortable during intercourse. Most women said they would be willing to use the insert for contraception or preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and most men said they would approve of their female partners using it if it became commercially available.

    Once again, we have the potential to advance women’s health in the U.S. and around the world. This is what innovation is all about – improving lives.