The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has announced a six-year, $22 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a new initiative designed to improve the reproductive health of the urban poor in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
To be coordinated by UNC's Carolina Population Center (CPC), in collaboration with the Nairobi-based African Population and Health Research Center and the Population Reference Bureau in Washington, D.C., the Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation for the Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (MLE) will work to identify reproductive health approaches and interventions that are likely to have the biggest impact among the urban poor. In 2008, for the first time ever, the percentage of the world's population living in urban areas reached 50 percent, and researchers predict that the bulk of future global population growth will occur in towns and cities.
In addition to serving as the central technical resource for local efforts to monitor and evaluate programs in countries where the Gates Foundation is supporting urban reproductive health initiatives, MLE will identify and document evidence-based interventions and best practices for providing health services to the urban poor while sharing information about promising approaches with policy makers, program managers, and researchers throughout the world. The initiative will also work to build the skills and professional capacity of countries and regions to undertake rigorous measurement and evaluation of population, family planning, and integrated reproductive health activities targeted at poor and vulnerable urban populations.
"It is exciting that the MLE project is being undertaken in parallel with the design and development of the foundation's programs," said David Guilkey, a CPC fellow and the project's principal investigator. "This permits the project to identify which approaches are the most effective for the urban poor and shape future family planning and reproductive health programs for ministries of health, municipal governments, donors, and foundations serving the poor in sub-Saharan African and South Asia."