The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced last week a $40 million commitment to the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health to build capacity for population and reproductive health programs in the developing world, where unintended pregnancies and unsafe childbearing are a major cause of illness and death.
The grant will significantly increase funding for the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, which trains leaders of reproductive health programs in developing countries; conducts reproductive health research; and transfers program technology, models and practices.
"We are tremendously grateful to the Gates Foundation," said Alfred Sommer, dean of the School of Public Health. "The foundation's vision and generosity will enable the institute to continue the next phase of its important work of training and strengthening the reproductive health leadership of the developing world."
Experts estimate that 120 million women who want and need access to family planning services don't have it. Every year, there are approximately 66 million unwanted pregnancies and 20 million unsafe abortions, the majority of which are in developing countries.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health was established at the School of Public Health in 1999 with a $20 million grant from the Gates Foundation, following a successful pilot grant awarded to the school in 1997. Since its launch, the institute has actively pursued its primary mission of developing and strengthening the capacity of individuals and institutions in the developing world to address their most pressing and overarching problems related to population, family planning and reproductive health.
Helene Gayle, director of HIV, TB and Reproductive Health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said, "Improving reproductive health services in developing countries could save millions of lives, but it requires stronger in-country human and institutional capacity. We're delighted to be able to help continue and expand the institute's pioneering work."
With the funding an-nounced on June 5, the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health will continue developing core leadership in family planning through organized collaborative research and leadership forums in the United States and in developing countries. The forums will address cutting-edge family planning issues and strategies in the context of other health challenges.
The institute also will continue to invest in sustainable partnerships with key academic institutions in the developing world. The goal is for these institutions to provide training that will build local leadership with a strong commitment to population and reproductive health and to carry out research on significant policy issues. The institute plans to collaborate with up to 25 institutions in 23 priority countries.
According to Amy Tsui, director of the Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health and professor in the school's Department of Population and Family Health Sciences, "The need for individual and institutional leadership focused on sustained commitment to family planning, sexual health care and maternity care has never been greater. An investment in building that leadership capacity now will produce future dividends by enabling families and communities to improve and protect their health."
With the grant from the Gates Foundation, commitments to the Johns Hopkins Knowledge for the World campaign total more than $1.09 billion, which is 54 percent of the campaign's $2 billion goal. To date, $261 million has been donated to the School of Public Health. Priorities of the fund-raising campaign, which benefits both The Johns Hopkins University and The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Health System, include strengthening endowment for student aid and faculty support; advancing research, academic and clinical initiatives; and building and upgrading facilities on all campuses. The campaign began in July 2000 and is scheduled to end in 2007.
"We are greatly appreciative of the Gates Foundation's continuing support of Johns Hopkins and the very important work of researchers and professionals in the field of public health," said university President William R. Brody. "This grant--the sixth-largest in the entire history of Johns Hopkins--provides particularly critical support for a very important public health initiative."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is building upon the unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in global health and learning. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately $24 billion.