Johns Hopkins Gazette: October 16, 1995

Symposium to bring world leaders in population studies
Population Dynamics Turns 25

Cynthia Salter
Special to The Gazette

     Twenty-five years ago when the university's Population
Dynamics Department was founded, many of today's standard "tools
of the trade" did not even exist.            

     Very little information was available on populations,
especially in developing countries, and almost no information was
available on contraceptive use. Few national family planning
programs existed, and even fewer had demonstrated that they could
affect fertility.     

     "These were things we were just learning at the time," says
W. Henry Mosley, department chairman and one of numerous
university faculty members and alumni who have shaped the
population field.  "We tend to take a lot of the work done back
then for granted, but 25 years ago, it was all new."

     The Population Dynamics Department will celebrate its 25th
anniversary with a two-day symposium this Friday and Saturday.
The symposium opens at 9:30 a.m. and will include presentations
and discussions by faculty members and representatives from the
International Planned Parenthood Federation, The Population
Council, The Alan Guttmacher Institute and Princeton University. 
Donald A. Henderson, professor and former dean, will speak at the
celebration dinner held Friday evening at Stouffers Hotel.

     Some of the ground-breaking work that emerged over the past
25 years included the first national family planning survey ever
conducted, the development of a measure of contraceptive use and
its effect on fertility, understanding of the inadequacies of 
single-method programs (those that provide only one form of
contraception) and the realization that well-trained
non-physicians could provide quality family planning services.
Research also documented the fertility-controlling effect of 
long-term exclusive breast feeding. 

      "This was a learning phase for everybody," Mosley
remembers. "We often forget what breakthroughs these were at the

     Prior to 1970, Population Dynamics was a division of the
Department of Population and Family Health, and many faculty were
already at the forefront of population research under the
leadership of then-chairman Paul Harper, who had begun doing
population studies in the 1960s.  Internationally, John Cobb,
Rowland Rider, Jack Kantner and Ismail Sirageldin were developing
a family planning research program in Pakistan.  Sirageldin
directed the Pakistan National Impact Survey--the first national
family planning survey ever conducted in a developing country.
The survey was a precursor to the later World Fertility Surveys
and today's Demographic and Health Surveys, conducted in
developing countries around the world and a cornerstone of health
and population research data.

     Mosley became involved in population studies in 1965 while
working on a cholera vaccination program in Bangladesh, then East
Pakistan.  As part of the vaccine study, Mosley's field workers
had to make daily visits to the 100,000 study households to ask
about cases of diarrhea. Mosley figured that they could ask about
births and deaths as well.

     "We were registering all the births and deaths, so I was
monitoring fertility," he remembers. The Pakistani government had
begun an aggressive family planning program of providing
intra-uterine devices to women and was claiming impressive
results. "But I was finding no change in fertility," says Mosley.
"We were providing empirical evidence that the program was not
working," he adds.

     "That was really my baptism into population," he says, "by
being involved in the field with a population study in a country
that was struggling to get a family planning program going, and
the program collapsed."

     Back in Baltimore when the university founded the Population
Dynamics Department, Mosley was asked to serve as chairman. 
"That was rather a big jump for me," he says now, smiling. "And a
big change.  I had been a master's student here, and then six
years later I was a professor and chairman of the department.
When I came back [from Bangladesh] and began to teach, family
planning was just getting started."

     But the field was taking off--both overseas and
domestically. In the U.S. faculty members Melvin Zelnik and Jack
Kantner had conducted the first national survey of adolescent
fertility and contraceptive use.        

     "This was truly a breakthrough at this time," says Mosley.
"The idea that you would go out and ask unmarried women between
the ages of 15 and 19 about their sexual activity was shocking.
Now these kinds of studies are done all the time, but back then
it was a very sensitive topic."

     In its first decade, the department focused on research on
fertility, with an agenda extending from investigations in
reproductive biology, directed by Larry Ewing for over 20 years,
to basic and applied research in demography, sociology,
economics, reproductive epidemiology, and family planning program
management and evaluation. In 1972 the Population Center was
established with support from the National Institute of Health. 
Later the Population Information Program and Population
Communication Services were established, supported by the U.S.
Agency for International Development. PIP publishes Population
Reports, an international journal on family planning issues, and
maintains Popline, the world's largest bibliographic database of
over 220,000 records, published and unpublished. PCS provides
technical assistance, training and financial support to family
planning programs in more than 65 countries. In 1988, PIP and PCS
formed the Center for Communication Programs, now recognized as
an international leader in the field of family planning and
reproductive health communications.

     Today the department has expanded its research agenda to
include child survival, adolescent reproductive health issues and
aging, and has established a multidisciplinary Center for Aging
Research, supported by the NIH. Also driving the department's
social science research agenda are the profound changes occurring
in American family patterns over the past 25 years, including the
dramatic rise in cohabitation. But, with world population
reaching 5.7 billion and projected to grow to 8 billion by 2020,
family planning remains a priority.

     "Over the past 25 years, while the composition and delivery
systems have improved, there have been no fundamental advances in
contraceptive technology, especially for males," Mosley says. 
"This represents a challenge for the department's fundamental
research in reproductive biology, which is building the knowledge
base for not only new contraceptives, but also for safer and
healthier reproductive outcomes for the few births that women do
want to have."

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