March 26, 2019

Gates Institute at Bloomberg School Awarded Two Grants to Collect Actionable Data on Family Planning in Africa and Asia

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been awarded two new grants—totaling $22.1 million—by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to implement longitudinal surveys to fill data gaps—collecting information not currently measured by other large-scale surveys. The innovative survey design makes it possible to track key health indicators and the factors that drive changes in them.

The new projects, Performance Monitoring for Action (PMA) and Performance Monitoring for Action Ethiopia (PMA Ethiopia), use mobile technology and a network of trained female resident enumerators (data collectors) to conduct household and health facility interviews to collect national and sub-national data on use, access and availability of family planning and other reproductive health services. The surveys will be conducted on an annual basis and will follow up with a selected cohort of women each year. The Gates Institute’s lead partner in managing and implementing the PMA project is Jhpiego, a Johns Hopkins University affiliate and global health nonprofit working in more than 30 countries.

“We are thrilled to have these new projects that monitor contraceptive change over time, as well as advance understanding of family planning and contraceptive use dynamics,” says Gates Institute’s Scott Radloff, PhD, who will direct the multi-country PMA project. “Working closely with those making decisions in each country, we will ensure that the data are used to inform policy and program action.”

“The PMA Ethiopia project builds on the success of a longitudinal study conducted in one province of Ethiopia, focusing on maternal and newborn health, but expanding it to national coverage and extending its content to encompass family planning and nutrition,” notes Linnea Zimmerman, PhD, who is the principal investigator for this project. “We have worked closely with the government of Ethiopia in designing the scope for this survey that will feed into their annual review of program progress.”

Data inform and drive health policy changes around the world. Good quality data—fast, accurate and locally owned—help track country progress to show decision makers what is working and what is not.

This new work will build on the success of Gates Institute’s Performance Monitoring for Accountability 2020 project. PMA2020 is known for its network of well-trained, female data collectors, rapid-turn-around of data and frequent data-collection intervals. In five years, the project, using smart phones, conducted 66 rounds of data collection, trained over 2,700 local data collectors and conducted more than 500,000 interviews in 11 countries located in Asia and Africa. Over 8,200 datasets, which are free and open source, have been downloaded to date.

“PMA revolutionizes the way global health data are collected,” says Oying Rimon, MA, PgDip, director of the Gates Institute. “These projects are fueling a data revolution that is underway to equip decision makers at the local and national levels with accurate near-time data to track progress and guide decision making.”

Cynthia Minkovitz, MD, MPP, is the chair of the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. She notes, “These grants link public health research and practice and draw upon expertise from faculty in our Department and School and local expertise in countries. They also further our partnerships with other public health schools and research institutes.”

Gates Institute’s and Jhpiego’s partners in the four-year PMA project include a network of universities, ministries of health, national statistical agencies and research institutions in eight countries: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria and Uganda. There are plans to expand to an additional four countries over the course of the project.

PMA Ethiopia, a five-year project, will collect data in all regions of Ethiopia on reproductive, maternal and newborn health. The survey will be implemented by Addis Ababa University, School of Public Health (AAU) in collaboration with regional universities, the federal Ministry of Health and the Central Statistics Agency, and in partnership with the Gates Institute.

The Gates Institute is based in the Population, Family and Reproductive Health Department at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.