USAID Awards $30 Million to Georgetown Institute for Reproductive Health to Lead Passages Project

Posted in GUMC Stories

JULY  22, 2015—With a $30 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) (new window) at Georgetown University Medical Center will lead a team of global health organizations to implement a new reproductive health initiative in developing countries.

By bringing together experts from FHI 360, Johns Hopkins Global Early Adolescent Study, Population Services International, Save the Children and Tearfund, the IRH-led Passages Project (new window) will strive to improve healthy timing and spacing of pregnancies among youth and first-time parents in Africa and Asia. Work supported by the grant began earlier this month.

“Early pregnancy and child marriage are a reality for millions of young women worldwide, curtailing their educational and vocational opportunities, leading to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes and contributing to the intergenerational cycle of poverty,” said Rebecka Lundgren, PhD (new window), director of the Passages Project and research director at IRH. “Enabling young women and men to live lives free of violence, coerced sex and unplanned pregnancy is essential if countries are to realize their development goals.”

Social norms enforced by peers, families and communities influence the way young people behave and think about sex, marriage and intimate partner violence. Researchers on the Passages Project will develop and test scalable approaches to promote social norms that support healthy behaviors, such as the belief that men and women have equal rights and responsibility in family planning. They will also study interventions that promote collective change through media, advocacy and community campaigns/mobilization, as well as discussions within social networks and among community leaders.

“We believe that by applying implementation science principles we will come to better understand what makes interventions effective in real-world contexts,” Lundgren said. “Applying a variety of implementation science approaches, we will address socially complex issues including gender inequality, stigma and violence, and focus on scalability—considering cost, complexity and adaptability.”

“Through the Passages Project, we are building on almost three decades of experience in developing evidence-based programs that address critical needs in sexual and reproductive health,” said Victoria Jennings, PhD (new window), director of IRH. “The Passages approach—focusing on social norms and targeting individuals at transitional life moments—offers a unique opportunity to address significant development challenges.”

As part of Georgetown University Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, IRH has been awarded over $200 million in grants to implement health and development projects conducting implementation science. Celebrating 30 years this October, IRH is dedicated to expanding family planning choices to meet the needs of women and men worldwide; advancing gender equality by helping women and men across the lifecycle learn about and take charge of their reproductive health; and involving communities in reproductive health interventions that improve their wellbeing.

Sophie Savage and Kat Zambon
GUMC Communications