Council Commentary

10 Ideas That Changed the World

How can we protect vulnerable communities from HIV? How does quality of care impact health outcomes?

Many of the ideas and perspectives that seem self-evident today in fact first emerged from an observation, question or insight that challenged accepted norms years ago.

Since our founding, asking bold questions and delivering rigorous evidence to improve health and well-being has been at the heart of the Population Council. Our research has addressed critical health and development issues, from slowing the spread of HIV and AIDS to putting women and girls at the center of global development.

This November, we are proud to turn 65 and to reflect on some of our exciting contributions. We’re celebrating 65 years of Ideas, Evidence, and Impact and the collective efforts that have made this world a better place. 

Join us as we unveil 10 ideas that changed the world in the lead-up to our 65th anniversary on November 7, 2017.

Making the case to invest in adolescents when it counts

Twenty years ago, the Population Council undertook the first major effort to synthesize information on adolescents, including very young adolescents (10–14-years old). The analysis demonstrated that early investments can shape the life trajectories of boys and girls and improve the future physical, social and economic health and well-being of individuals, families and entire communities. Groundbreaking reports, including Investing When It Counts, helped ensure the world’s attention is focused on adolescent girls and when and how to most effectively improve their well-being. Today, the importance of investing in very young adolescents is widely accepted as both the right thing to do and the smart thing do.​

Download Investing When It Counts and learn more about the Council’s work on young adolescents.

Read United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Right Kate Gilmore’s reflections on the importance of Pursuing Evidence to Uphold Girls’ Rights.

Recognizing women and girls as central to development

In 1974, at a landmark UN conference in Bucharest, our founder John D Rockefeller 3rd called for "new and urgent attention to the role of women.” He was a pioneer in the field for recognizing the growing importance of a woman’s ability to choose her role in society and lay the groundwork for the Population Council’s decades of research on advancing women’s health and rights.

Later, in the 1990s, it was Council researchers who were among the first to argue that adolescent girls are central to the world’s social and economic development. Once deemed radical, placing women and girls at the center of global development is now conventional wisdom, thanks in large part to the work of the Population Council.

Today, the Population Council continues to conduct critical research in the area of women and girls’ empowerment and is building the world’s largest open data repository on adolescents as part of the new Girl, Innovation, Research, and Learning (GIRL) Center.

Read The Uncharted Passage: Girls' adolescence in the developing world or Growing Up Global. You can also learn more about our work on empowering adolescent girls.

Putting clients at the center of quality health care

Nearly three decades ago, Council researchers Judith Bruce and Anrudh Jain established a Framework for Quality of Care, which is still used today as a gold-standard for determining the quality of care provided in family planning and reproductive health services. The framework established client-centered care, a basic human right, and has been promoted by women's health organizations and affirmed at international conferences. Today, this framework continues to inform family planning programs around the world.

Learn more about the Population Council’s continued work on Quality of Care and rights-based framework.