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June 19, 1999
Bill Gates Funds Indian Child Health Program
A United States non-profit organisation has been awarded a grant through the William H Gates Foundation to fund the development of reproductive and child health pilot programs in India beginning later this fall.
The $ 2.74 million grant was awarded to the Boston-based Management Sciences for Health on the basis of a proposal submitted to the Foundation last month. MSH works to make health services more available and affordable worldwide. The Gates Foundation solicits proposals from many organisations around the country.
Led by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates's father, William Gates Sr, the William H Gates Foundation supports initiatives in education, global health and community giving.
Last year, the Foundation had committed $ 133 million to organisations working in global health, $ 122 million to educational concerns, more than $ 42 million to community projects and over $ 60 million to special projects and annual giving campaigns.
"We as a foundation are proud of the work we do and we hope to yield real benefits," Trevor Neilson, communications manager, said of the Foundation and its hopes for the future.
India adds 18 million people to its population each year, and recent family health policy stresses the need to improve the quality and effectiveness of reproductive and child health programs in the country.
MSH and its partner organisation, Technical Assistance, Inc, will use the grant to form partnerships with Indian organisations that will develop three pilot programs over a three-year period. The pilot programs can become models for delivering reproductive and child health services in India at the community level, and then be replicated by Indian organisations on a broad scale. The pilots will be developed for three different environments: urban, rural, and mountain/tribal.
The concept and design of the pilot programs will be borrowed from a highly successful program in Bangladesh called the Local Initiatives Program. "We are very excited to have an opportunity to take what we've learned in Bangladesh to India, and we hope that the programs we develop will give women and families in India the same opportunity to improve their health and lives as have women and families in Bangladesh," said Catherine Crone Coburn, president of MSH.
Neilson said MSH was selected because, "the organisation with its scientific advisors did an excellent job of stating goals with the confidence that they will significantly contribute to health care in India and we see a real need there."
The Local Initiatives Program was introduced in Bangladesh in 1987, and it has helped increase the rate of contraceptive use from 34 per cent to nearly 65 per cent in the areas it serves -- more than a quarter of the country. The LIP has trained 38,000 rural women in Bangladesh to deliver preventive health and family planning services at the local level.
MSH says the program has been successful because these community volunteers, along with health and family planning staff, local leaders, and government officials, have been actively involved in managing and implementing it. The LIP program was developed with funding from the US Agency for International Development.
Stephen Sacca, Director of Communications and Public Information at MSH, stresses that the LIP will not be transferred, but carefully adapted to the Indian environment. "Wherever MSH has worked in the world," he says, "we have found that the greatest impact is achieved when local individuals and organisations take ownership of their problems and craft solutions that reflect the unique features of their environment. MSH's approach is to facilitate problem solving, not deliver packaged solutions."
MSH's approach to its work will be featured in a 30-minute documentary that will be broadcast on Public Television Stations in the US during the next several months. The program, part of 'The Visionaries' series, explores the vision of MSH founder Ron O'Connor and the ideas that shape MSH's work in more than 100 countries.
When he was a medical student working in Nepal 30 years ago, O'Connor believed that people in disadvantaged countries could solve their own health problems if they had the knowledge, resources and training. He created MSH to help provide it. Today, MSH maintains a staff of more than 300 people of 40 nationalities in its Boston, Massachusetts, headquarters, offices in Washington, DC and field offices around the globe.
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