USAID awards $19.8 million to Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health
Georgetown’s Institute for Reproductive Health was awarded $19.8 million last week from the U.S. Agency for International Development toward a five-year project on fertility awareness and family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. IRH, an integral part of the Georgetown University Medical Center, has outlined its goal to simplify family planning methods by measuring the impact of heightened fertility awareness on unintended pregnancies in developing countries. The project, known as FACT (Fertility Awareness for Community Transformation), is an extension of the substantial research that has been conducted by the IRH for nearly 30 years to address crucial issues regarding sexual and reproductive health.
Victoria Jennings, Director and Principal Investigator the IRH, believes that improved family planning methods do not just save lives. They enhance people’s social, educational, and economic environments. She asserts that “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.” During her time at Georgetown, Jennings has developed the Cycle Beads program, a way for women to monitor their fertility cycles using color-coded strings of beads. This simple yet efficient system, based on the Standard Days Method, has proven to be more than 95% effective in helping women avoid pregnancy.
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 222 million women in developing countries would like to delay or prevent childbearing but are not using contraceptives due to lack of education, options, or basic access. Additionally, 99 percent of the world’s maternal deaths occur in these same countries, especially among poorer, rural women living in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The IRH’s fertility awareness project is important in helping to ameliorate such issues.
Collectively over the past 28 years, the IRH has received over $150 million in grants toward the establishment of health and development projects to help eradicate the current problems that exist with family planning in the developing world. As Dr. Howard J. Federoff, GUMC’s executive vice president for health sciences has stated, “these programs make a significant impact not only on individuals, but on entire communities.”