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November 30, 2011

Gates Foundation’s plans for family planning

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is known for investing in cutting-edge, innovative health interventions. Its investments in family planning are no different.

Monica Kerrigan, Deputy Director and Team Leader of the Family Planning/Reproductive Health at the Gates Foundation, today talked at the International Conference on Family Planning about her team’s family planning priorities.

One major focus, she said, was investing in non-Western manufacturers of certain contraceptives.

China is beginning to make $9 implants, which is a contraceptive that lasts three years. Implants are a small stick containing the hormone progestogen, which is inserted under the skin in the arm. Kerrigan said at $9 the Chinese implants are half the cost of current implants, which could greatly increase access to low-income couples. The implants are an increasingly preferred method of contraceptives for African women.

Another Gates’ investment is research into a new uni-ject injectable, or shots that need to be given once. Currently injectables are multi-ject (requiring more than one shot to be given) and therefore required to be given by a trained nurse or doctor. By creating uni-ject injectables, community health workers, a main source of health care in rural areas, can administer the contraceptive. Again, such an innovation would reach women who currently have limited access to family planning.

The foundation also is hoping to find and fund new injectables that will be of higher quality. Many women do not use injectables now because of side effects, such as nausea.

These investments in family planning, Kerrigan said, have the potential to “really expand choice in the developing world.”
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This is one of a series of posts from the International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar, Senegal.

In Senegal