John Townsend, PhD, is Director of Country Strategy at the Population Council. In this role, he provides leadership and support across the Population Council’s country offices with the aim to maximize the Council’s positive impact and ensure the organization’s knowledge is effectively influencing national policy and programs. He is responsible for the initiation, development, and monitoring of Council country strategies and provides technical and managerial guidance related to program priorities in Reproductive Health; Poverty, Gender, and Youth; and HIV/AIDS as well as support for the introduction of new health technologies in countries with Council presence.
Townsend joined the Council in 1984. He served as director of the Frontiers in Reproductive Health program; director of operations research programs in Asia and the Near East (1993–1998) in New Delhi; regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean in Mexico (1990–1993); director of operations research in Latin America and the Caribbean (1985–1990); country director for the Council’s Colombia office (1984); and was Vice President and Director of the Reproductive Health program from 2006 to 2017. In each of these roles, he supported policy development and designed and tested interventions that improved the coverage, quality, and sustainability of reproductive health service delivery systems, each with a focus on client rights.
Before joining the Council, Townsend served for eight years as a social scientist with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama with residence in Guatemala, and conducted research on such topics as child and maternal nutrition, physical growth and mental development of children, community development, and sustainable agriculture systems.
Townsend is chair of the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition, past chair of the International Medical Advisory Panel (IMAP) of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), a member of the advisory board for Merck for Mothers, Chair of the Institutional Review Board of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and Civil Society Representative (2017–2018) to the Global Financing Facility and the Investors Group, hosted by the World Bank. He is also the Board Chair of Population Council-Kenya. He is a member of the Maternal Health Task Force and serves as co-chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Contraceptive Access Foundation, Helsinki, Finland, a public–private cooperation with Bayer AG, which provides access to long-acting intrauterine methods in developing countries. Townsend was a long-term member of the Interagency Gender Working Group (IGWG) in Washington, DC, and a member of the Rights & Empowerment working group of the FP2020 Initiative.
Townsend has been a designated reviewer for a range of peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Education, Society & Behavioral Research, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Journal of Women’s Health, Pan American Journal of Public Health, Studies in Family Planning, International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Health & Sexuality, and has served as a technical reviewer for the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition.
Townsend is a frequent presenter at professional meetings, with extensive publications and studies focusing on development, population, family planning, and reproductive health. He has worked and traveled extensively in more than 35 countries, and in 2006 he received USAID’s Marjorie Horn Operations Research Award for excellence in conducting and utilizing research. He holds a doctorate in social psychology with supporting studies in public affairs and educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. He received his Leadership Development Certificate from the Columbia University Business School’s Institute for Not-for-Profit Management, and received his undergraduate degrees in psychology and German from Marquette University.