Gates Foundation donates $20.5M gift to Bloomberg

By JAE CHOI | September 20, 2018


Jack at Wikipedia/ CC BY-SA 2.0

The Gates Foundation recently donated to the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

On Sept. 10, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $20.5 million gift to the Bloomberg School of Public Health to fund reproductive health services for urban adolescent populations. The grant will specifically go toward funding The Challenge Initiative (TCI), an international program focused on providing sexual and reproductive resources for impoverished urban populations worldwide. 

TCI is being headed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Population and Reproductive Health, a part of the Population, Family and Reproductive Health Department at the Bloomberg School.

TCI provides support to cities that express interest in reproductive health resources. Upon designing a program that outlines plans to respond to challenges concerning reproductive health needs, city governments can receive coaching and financial assistance to carry out their programs. TCI will not only coach and provide funding to these cities but also optimize decision-making through data analysis and research. The efforts of TCI will be focused on urban cities in East Africa, Francophone West Africa, Nigeria and India.

Jose G. Rimon, a senior scientist at the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, spoke with The News-Letter about the role of TCI in urban communities and how the new funding will be allocated.

“So if you’re a part of this challenge initiative movement, then you will have your own benefits — your first benefit is you can access a challenge fund that we have. So part of that 20.5 million will go into a challenge fund,” he said.

Rimon added that TCI provides participants with tools for success. 

“Second, you will have access to all the tools, best practices and best approaches that have been proven effective around the world,” he said. “And those are the tools that we have now embedded in what we call the TCI University.”

The TCI University is an online learning platform where cities can access educational materials, coaching and a “community of practice,” a forum for exchange of knowledge and experience among TCI partners.

Rimon also discussed the long-term goals of the Gates Foundation.

“For now, they have two primary goals: one is to support universal access to reproductive health by 2030. That’s the sustainable development goal,” he said. “In the meantime, up to 2020, they’re supporting the goal of reaching an additional 120 million women and girls to practice modern family planning... That’s what is called the family planning 2020 goal.”

Increased access to reproductive health resources can have a far-reaching economic, environmental and social impact.

Universal access to reproductive health and family planning leads to a smaller dependent population and a larger workforce population. For the cost of $3.6 billion per year, the returns amount to $400 billion annually; in other words, for each dollar spent, $120 dollars of returns are possible.

According to Project Drawdown, a comprehensive plan to mitigate climate change compiled through collaboration between scientists, among the top 10 biggest solutions to climate change is business leaders and policymakers increasing focus on family planning and girls’ education. 

Through education and leaders, policy can be created and followed that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Combining access to family planning and girls’ education could reduce 119.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

In most countries across the world, there are barriers to contraceptive resources and girls’ education due to poverty, social and religious customs, and lack of educational resources.

Increased reproductive health resources can also lead to large reductions in mortality rates.

“When you practice contraception, number one, it could reduce maternal mortality from 44 percent to 60 percent. It’s the single biggest factor in the reduction of maternal deaths. It could also reduce infant mortality between maybe 20 percent to 25 percent,” Rimon said.

Rimon added that contraception also can lead to better opportunities for women. 

“There is evidence to show that the practice of contraception and the fertility related to that increases the opportunity of people to have more income and have more education,” he said.

Rimon ended with a final note on the potential returns from such actions.

“The big answer is this: when you invest in this, the returns are incredible. We call it a lifetime of returns,” he said.

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