News & Views

Voices of Change

Family Planning: Increasing Access, Engaging Communities, Improving Technologies

In celebration of World Contraception Day 2014, learn more about how the Population Council has shaped policies, informed programs, and developed new reproductive health technologies through the voices of 6 Council researchers: Terence Adda-Balinia, Selina Esantsi, Régine Sitruk-Ware, Ruth Merkatz, Gertrude Nsorma Nyaaba, and Patience Boni.

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Voices of Change

Harriet Birungi: A Perspective on Sex Education in Schools

Harriet Birungi is the country director of the Population Council's Nairobi office, a senior associate with the Council’s Reproductive Health program, and a medical anthropologist. 

I am Harriet Birungi, and I am proud to be an advocate for family planning. In Kenya and in other countries across the world, I’ve seen what happens when young girls, boys, and women don’t have access to the education and resources they need to understand the changes that happen to their bodies, know the facts about unintended pregnancy, and be informed about their contraceptive options. It is my mission to uncover and address the most pressing needs of adolescents and women nationwide to help them achieve their dreams and life goals.

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Voices of Change

Kelly Hallman: Working with Vulnerable Adolescents in South Africa

Kelly Hallman is a Population Council senior associate. Her research focuses on improving the health, economic prospects, and social inclusion of marginalized adolescents.

I grew up with a strong sense of social justice. I am Native American and was exposed early to gender violence, alcoholism, employment problems, and discriminatory class and race attitudes. I wanted to do something about these issues, so I gravitated toward economics as a measurable way to look at social issues. Research gave me an opportunity to dig into some of the root causes of the problems that surrounded me.

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Voices of Change

C. Yan Cheng: Mediating the Effects of a Toxic Environment

C. Yan Cheng is a senior scientist at the Population Council's Center for Biomedical Research. His research focuses on the development of a novel contraceptive for human males. He is also the editor-in-chief of the quarterly, peer-reviewed journal  Spermatogenesis.

In recent years, we're finding that the quality of men's semen is going down. Not only in terms of sperm mobility, but also in the number of sperm produced. About 30 percent of cases of couples' infertility can be attributed to the man these days. There are increasing numbers of studies that link poor sperm performance with cadmium. Men who have difficulty conceiving babies have significantly higher levels of cadmium in their body fluids, such as semen, than men with normal fertility.

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Samson Oduro Muga, MD: Improving Pediatric HIV Services in Kenya

Samson Oduro Muga, MD: Improving Pediatric HIV Services in Kenya

Between 2008 and 2012, the Population Council’s USAID-funded AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance Operations Research Project worked with local partners in Kenya to test innovative ways to improve the delivery of health services. Through the project, the Council helped Kendu Adventist Hospital improve pediatric HIV services.

I am the head of clinical services and in charge of the Comprehensive Care Center, the AIDS care unit at Kendu Adventist Hospital. Out of a caseload of 4,500 active patients, we treat about 120 to 210 patients every day. We also conduct voluntary HIV counseling and testing services in our hospital and at various mobile sites outside of the clinic.

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Voices of Change

Barbara Friedland: Using Video to Educate Clinical Trial Participants About Informed Consent

Barbara Friedland is an associate with the Population Council’s HIV and AIDS program. She has been integrally involved in the Council's microbicides program since 1996, conducting both clinical and behavioral research.

Ensuring informed consent and voluntary participation is one of the most complicated aspects of conducting any clinical trial. But what makes microbicides trials even more difficult is that they deal with HIV, which remains highly stigmatized in many of the countries where trials are conducted. Microbicides trials also involve other sensitive issues like sexuality and gender-based power dynamics. And, because large-scale efficacy trials must be conducted in areas with high incidence of HIV, healthy volunteers must be recruited from populations that are economically vulnerable and at substantial risk of HIV infection. As researchers, we must do our best to protect participants by providing counseling on safer sex practices, while reinforcing that the efficacy of the test product is unknown, so that participants do not have a false sense of protection. 

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Voices of Change

Mark Montgomery: Analyzing the Effects of Climate Change and Urbanization

Mark Montgomery is a senior associate with the Population Council’s Poverty, Gender, and Youth program. His research centers on empirical models of urban population growth, poverty, health, with particular attention to the implications of climate-related risks.

We’re living in unprecedented times in terms of global climate change and population growth. There isn’t much dispute that temperatures are increasing on our planet and that this increase is having an effect on the environment. Another large trend that isn’t being discussed with the same level of intensity as climate change is urbanization. Far from entering a period of decline, the world’s population is likely to grow by 1.8 billion between roughly now and 2025. The vast majority of these people will live in the cities and towns of poor countries.

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Judith Bruce: Pioneering Strategies for Adolescent Girls

Judith Bruce is a senior associate and policy analyst with the Population Council's Poverty, Gender, and Youth program. She has coordinated a program of policy-oriented research on issues related to women’s and adolescent girls’ social and economic development.

Back in the early 1990s—the “dawn” of youth programming—before anyone was focusing on girls, we posed the question: Who is at risk of and carries the most promise to solve the problems the Population Council is serious about solving?

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Hafsatu: Benefiting from Life-saving Treatment for Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia

The Population Council coordinated efforts to treat women in Kano State, Nigeria, with severe pre-eclampsia and eclampsia by introducing the use of magnesium sulfate in health facilities. Hafsatu was one of many women who benefited from this life-saving treatment. Her story was featured among other maternal health success stories as part of the Stories of Mothers Saved project of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood.

I'm 30 years old, and I've had 12 children. Four of my children died when they were about one year old. I accepted their deaths as Allah’s will. I pray to Allah that he will not send me any more children.

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Ben Bellows: Evaluating Reproductive Health Voucher Programs in East Africa and South Asia

Ben Bellows is an associate with the Population Council’s Reproductive Health program in Kenya. He is the program manager for the reproductive health vouchers project, which evaluates programs in East Africa and South Asia.

There is growing interest in innovative "voucher and accreditation" strategies to pay for health services. We want to find out whether public health goals can be achieved through incentives to health care providers and patients.

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