PRB Leading the Hewlett Foundation's PopPov Initiative

(March 2011) The Population and Poverty (PopPov) Research Network held its Fifth Annual Conference on Population, Reproductive Health, and Economic Development in January. Participants learned about ongoing and planned research on how population dynamics and reproductive health affect economic development, and worked together to identify gaps in evidence and methods that inhibit development of sound policies on population, family planning, and reproductive health. PRB and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation established the Dissertation Fellowships and Teams of Research Excellence programs in 2006 to support this type of innovative research.


What motivated the Hewlett Foundation to invest in PopPov? “A woman’s peak economic productive years are the same as her reproductive years, and for women in the developing world and for poor women around the world, the burden of ill health is primarily reproduction-related,” explained Sara Seims, program director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Population Program, in a recent interview with PRB. “And we felt there was insufficient knowledge of how exactly these pathways work between a woman’s reproductive health status and the poverty level of her household.”


Participants at the PopPov conference discussed how to communicate research to decisionmakers for evidence-based policy. Helena Choi, program officer in Hewlett’s Population Program, oversees PopPov. “The important thing to us is that the research is used to inform government policy to improve people’s lives. That’s why we funded it. It’s not research for its own sake…The people who make policy can’t be expected to know what the implications of raw research are, and researchers aren’t used to communicating in ways that policymakers understand,” Choi said in a Q&A with the Hewlett Foundation.


“The PopPov network—with the support of the Hewlett Foundation and the British, Dutch, and Norwegian research councils—is laying the groundwork for new evidence that links population growth, reproductive health, and economic development,” noted Jay Gribble, vice president of International Programs at PRB, and PopPov’s project director. “The research taking place between the network’s member institutions from the global north and south is building lasting partnerships that will extend beyond the PopPov initiative. PRB’s role in leading the PopPov secretariat is an exciting opportunity, as we identify and support new research questions, and disseminate the policy-relevant findings of current research to local, national, and global audiences.”


PopPov’s goal is to produce a growing body of sound, policy-relevant evidence to be shared among the research community and to be incorporated into national economic planning and decisionmaking. The PopPov website,, showcases the network’s researchers and projects.


Tyjen Tsai is writer/editor at PRB.