October 17, 2013 – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded $19.8 million to Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) for a five-year fertility awareness and family planning project in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
In developing countries, a woman’s lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy and childbirth is one in 75, nearly 100 times higher than the risk in developed countries, according to the World Health Organization. Studies also show that an estimated 220 million women are not using any family planning method despite wanting to avoid pregnancy.
IRH Director Victoria Jennings says providing these women with acceptable family planning methods, including fertility awareness-based options, not only saves lives, but also improves other social, educational, environmental and economic indicators.
“Every woman, man, girl and boy deserves accurate and appropriate sexual and reproductive health information to equip them for healthy decision making,” Jennings says. “Fertility awareness consists of communicating actionable, life-course-appropriate information about fertility and enabling people to apply this knowledge to their own circumstances and needs.”
IRH, part of the Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC), will lead a team of global health experts including the International Center for Research on Women, Population Media Center and Save the Children to implement its USAID-funded Fertility Awareness for Community Transformation (FACT) project.
The goal of the IRH is to simplify natural methods of family planning.
As part of the project, IRH also will measure whether improving fertility awareness and expanding access to fertility awareness-based methods of family planning results in the reduction of unintended pregnancies.
“The research will provide empirical evidence on the potential benefits of greater understanding among women and men of the way their reproductive systems function,” says Rebecka Lundgen, IRH research director. “Our work will result in tested strategies to increase fertility awareness at the community level – thus creating an enabling environment for women and men to take actions to protect their reproductive health.”
Through the FACT Project, IRH is building on nearly three decades of experience in designing, conducting research to develop evidence-based programs that address critical needs in sexual and reproductive health.
Over the past 28 years, IRH has been awarded approximately $150 million in grants to implement health and development projects.
“Under Victoria Jennings’ leadership, IRH has demonstrated critical contributions in creating receptive environments within communities around the world so they can embrace evidence-based reproductive health programs,” says Dr. Howard J. Federoff, GUMC’s executive vice president for health sciences. “These programs make a significant impact not only on individuals, but on entire communities.”