U-M researcher receives funding to study family planning in Africa

November 16, 2016
Mandira Banerjee

ANN ARBOR—Thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a University of Michigan researcher will explore social norms affecting family planning in Niger.

As a $100,000 Grand Challenges Explorations winner, Paul Fleming and colleagues will examine the social networks of husbands of adolescent girls in Niger, and how these networks influence family planning decisions.

“This is the first study of its kind in the region to collect formal social network data about men’s social norms about family planning,” said Fleming, assistant professor in the U-M School of Public Health.

Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world, and 76 percent of women are married by the time they are 18. With the gender inequality, husbands usually control all decisions on use and type of contraception.

However, it is unclear how and why they make these decisions, and particularly how other men in their lives influence these decisions.

Fleming, along with researchers at the University of California, San Diego, will conduct in-depth interviews with a group of 20 husbands of adolescent girls, and look at the social networks of an additional 300 men. The research team also will interview key members of these social networks to determine their influence on husbands and their decisions to use or not use contraception.

The researchers hope to identify social barriers and, ultimately, effective models for increasing use of family planning to improve the health of married adolescent girls.

To receive funding, Fleming and other Grand Challenges Explorations winners demonstrated a bold idea in one of six critical global heath and development topic areas. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to $1 million.

Fleming’s project is one of more than 55 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 17 grants announced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The study will be conducted in collaboration with Pathfinder International, building on their Reaching Married Adolescents program.


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