The gift reflects the commitment of the foundations, established by Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, to invest in global health projects. It builds on the foundations' 1997 commitment of $2.25 million to the school, which established a training and research program for family planning and reproductive health specialists from developing nations. That program will be the foundation for the new institute.
"The response from the developing world to family and reproductive health initiatives launched with the original Gates Foundations gift has been dramatic," said President William R. Brody. "This exciting new level of support from the foundations allows our faculty to begin to meet the really overwhelming demand in these nations for home-grown expertise. We are most grateful to Bill and Melinda Gates for making this possible."
Drawing on broad expertise from within the School of Public Health and throughout the university, the institute over the next five years will bring scholars from Latin America, Asia and Africa to Hopkins to earn advanced degrees. It will also provide fellows with leadership training, either in Baltimore or in their home countries. The institute will give continuing support to the fellows once they return to work at home, in part by providing computer- and Web-based distance learning programs. It will also seek to strengthen the public health infrastructure that enables the fellows to do their work, cooperating with institutions in the developing world to help them become resources for expertise and training within their own regions.
The institute will also initiate research collaborations, train scientists in information systems technology and data management, and promote a sharing of "lessons learned" between the developing world and impoverished areas of Baltimore.
"Major advances could be made toward solving global problems in population and reproductive health if countries around the world could put in place appropriate, cost-effective service delivery programs," said Alfred Sommer, dean of the School of Public Health. "The problem is not technology alone but the need for trained professionals, researchers and technicians. The institute will provide that training."
Laurie Schwab Zabin, principal investigator on the project and a professor of population and family health sciences at Hopkins, said the Gates gift recognizes that "building capacity, investing in human and institutional development, is the greatest contribution we can make."
Global population grows by 100 million each year, Zabin said. More than 100 million women who want to delay childbearing or have no more children do not use contraception, she said. Death and disability due to childbearing are major health problems in the developing world.
"We are so grateful that the Gates Foundations have helped bring to life our shared vision of what an academic institution can do to address these issues through a combination of scholarship and science," Zabin said.
W. Henry Mosley, a professor of population and family health sciences, will co-direct the institute with Zabin until an international search for a permanent director is completed. The Department of Population and Family Health Sciences has long led worldwide research and training in population and public health, following a School of Public Health tradition of integrating graduate education with operational programs.
Across the university, Johns Hopkins combines disciplinary research in basic, population-based, social and managerial sciences with large applied programs in international health. These programs include the Center for Communication Programs, which provides health education via mass media in the developing world, and JHPIEGO, which educates health personnel in the developing world.
With the Gates Foundations' $20 million grant, total commitments to the Johns Hopkins Initiative have reached $1.2 billion, the campaign's overall goal. Scheduled to conclude in June 2000, the campaign will continue to focus on ongoing needs, particularly student aid, the libraries and facilities.