Council Commentary

Delivering Ideas, Evidence, and Solutions to Improve Lives

Since 1952, the Population Council has been changing the way the world thinks about critical health and development issues. Our biomedical, social science, and public health research in more than 50 countries tests ideas, generates evidence, and delivers solutions leading to more effective policies, programs, and technologies that improve lives around the world.

The Council has a rich history. For more than 60 years, our data have driven decisionmaking. From the start we have given voice and visibility to the world’s most vulnerable people. We increase awareness of the problems they face and offer evidence-based solutions. Around the world, governments, civil society organizations, and international agencies seek our help to understand and overcome obstacles to improving health and promoting development. And we work with partners on every continent to use state-of-the-art biomedical science to develop new contraceptives and products to prevent the transmission of HIV

I am enormously proud of the Council’s many achievements.

  • We developed the three most effective forms of long-acting, reversible contraception: the Copper T IUD, the Mirena® intrauterine system, and the contraceptive implant (Norplant® and Jadelle®). Currently, 170 million women worldwide are using a highly effective contraceptive developed by the Population Council or based on our technology. Today we are paving the way for the introduction of effective new Council-developed vaginal ring technologies that are easy to use and under a woman’s control.
  • In the 1990s, Council researchers were among the first to argue that adolescent girls are central to the world’s social and economic development. Over the last two decades, we have helped to provide a clearer picture of the potential of empowered girls to improve their own lives, their communities, and the world. And today, we are building the world’s largest body of research on programs to improve adolescent girls’ lives.
  • We were the first international NGO to focus attention on the HIV-related vulnerabilities of men who have sex with men (MSM) in Africa. Our findings have helped prompt national AIDS programs to include MSM in national HIV policies and informed the development and implementation of HIV programs for MSM in sub-Saharan Africa. Our research continues to provide insight into the health needs of MSM and other populations vulnerable to HIV and AIDS.

The Council has made major contributions in many other areas of health and development, too. We translate evidence into action and guide policymakers and donors on how to best spend scarce resources. 

We publish two high-impact, peer-reviewed journals that shape understanding of critical issues in global health and development and help transform programs, policies, and research methodologies around the world.

We developed an innovative quality-of-care framework that has guided the design and delivery of services in family planning and reproductive health.

We discovered the link between smoking, the Pill, and increased cardiovascular risk, which made the case for the US Food and Drug Administration to change its recommendations.

And we created fellowship programs that have helped thousands of social and biomedical scientists, public health researchers, and program managers advance their careers, and created and strengthened local institutions in developing countries with major investments in research.

In my first months as Council president I’ve learned about these and the many other ways the Council has delivered and continues to deliver ideas, evidence, and solutions that have far-reaching impact.

To celebrate the Council’s 65th anniversary in 2017, I’ve asked leaders in the fields of population, health, and development, as well as Council colleagues, to provide their insights for a new blog series on our website, “Ideas with Impact.” Together we will explore the key issues facing us, discuss what has worked and what hasn’t in the global health and development field, honor our collaborative relationships, celebrate the Council’s contributions, and look to the future.

Join me on what I know will be a fascinating and informative look at the history of our common endeavor: leading the way toward a better life for people around the world.

Julia Bunting is president of the Population Council.

Next entry: Developing Highly Effective, Long-Acting, and Reversible Contraceptives, by Carolyn Westhoff