WASHINGTON— The Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH), a part of Georgetown University Medical Center, has received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to carry out a project aimed at increasing availability of and access to family planning services and fertility awareness for women, men and adolescents in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Called the “A3 Project: Expanding Family Planning Access, Availability, and Awareness,” the $2.8 million, two-year innovative project aims to improve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies.
“This effort requires broad mobilization of resources and engagement by religious leaders and faith-based organizations, the private sector and youth-serving organizations, to expand access to information and services,” explains IRH and A3 project director Victoria Jennings, PhD.
Studies show that an estimated 220 million women are not using any family planning method despite wanting to avoid pregnancy. Lack of availability of acceptable options, lack of access to information and services and low levels of fertility awareness are some of the barriers this project will tackle.
A3 will use multiple approaches to address these challenges in Rwanda and Uganda. One such approach is to strengthen the capacity of faith based organizations to reach more people with quality services and add easy-to-use fertility awareness-based methods to the choices available.
“This strategy has the potential to significantly increase access to and use of family planning,” Jennings says.
The growth of mobile phone and internet use worldwide offers another important strategy to reach women and couples directly with family planning services.
“Since 2009, IRH has been leading this charge by developing and testing a portfolio of mobile and digital tools that facilitate the use of the Standard Days Method,” Jennings says, referring to a scientifically tested method by which women know what days of their cycles they are most likely to become pregnant. “The widespread use of mobile phones offers the potential to overcome accessibility, availability, and affordability barriers and to provide a low-cost method directly on users’ phones.”
The final approach will be to improve the sexual and reproductive health of very young adolescents (ages 10-14), their parents and their teachers.
“The early years of adolescence mark a critical transition between childhood and adulthood, setting the stage for future attitudes and behaviors,” Jennings explains. “We’ll work with youth-serving organizations to increase body literacy, fertility-awareness, gender-equitable attitudes, and other related outcomes among adolescents, their parents and their teachers.”
“This is a transformative opportunity to expand our work to improve the lives of women, families and youth in low resource settings,” Jennings concludes. “We’re grateful for the confidence the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has placed in us and we have already made strides by lining up an excellent team of partners in Africa.”
About Institute for Reproductive Health
The Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) at Georgetown University has over 25 years of experience in designing and implementing evidence-based programs that address critical needs in sexual and reproductive health. The hallmark of our work is translating scientific data into simple and practical guidance for clinic- and community-based reproductive health programs. IRH strives to expand family planning choices to meet the needs of women and men worldwide; advance gender equality by helping women and men across the lifecycle learn about and take charge of their reproductive health; and involve communities in reproductive health interventions that improve their wellbeing.
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.