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Professor David Guilkey briefed us last year in this space about his research evaluating a Gates Foundation Initiative in four emerging economies. Here’s an update from him on his progress.

I’ve briefed you in previous newsletters about my work on a Carolina Population Center project with the Gates Foundation. We’ve had promising recent developments, and I’d like to update you.

The Gates Foundation has invested heavily in a strategy to reduce maternal and infant mortality as well as unintended pregnancies in the developing world by increasing access to high-quality, voluntary family planning services. This strategy has been implemented in four countries worldwide: India, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal. The obvious question for the Gates Foundation, and all observers, was: Is the strategy working to reduce mortality and unintended pregnancies?

Carolina has for decades been a world leader in answering this type of question. In the MEASURE project that I developed, the Carolina Population Center has provided project-level evaluation of the impacts of projects undertaken by the US Agency for International Development. The Gates Foundation asked a similar question about their strategy – is it working?

I and my co-investigator, Ilene Speizer of the School of Public Health at UNC, began our evaluation in 2008. By 2014, our initial results were in. In all countries, we found a subset of initiatives from the strategy that had strong positive impacts in reducing mortality and unintended pregnancies and another subset of initiatives that had little to no effect. The Gates Foundation has used our results to refine its strategy with the goal of improving outcomes in all four countries. The 2.0 strategy will be more cost-effective in achieving this goal. This is important to the Gates Foundation for two reasons: first, it can offer the same services at lower cost; second, it can convince other potential donors and governments that the strategy is worthwhile. The Gates Foundation would like to extend its strategy to all countries, and our evaluation is making that possible.

The Gates Foundation recently showed its appreciation for our work in a very tangible way by committing funds to expand the program to additional countries. They also made it clear that they want us to continue to be involved in the evaluation process going forward.

-David Guilkey Boshamer Distinguished Professor

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