August 17, 2017—The Population Council has been awarded Breakthrough-RESEARCH, a five-year cooperative agreement from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project aims to improve healthy behaviors and norms across key global health areas, including family planning and reproductive health; HIV/AIDS; maternal, newborn and child health; emerging infectious diseases; and malaria. Led by the Population Council, consortium partners include the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, Population Reference Bureau, Tulane University, Avenir Health and ideas42.

Social and behavior change programs raise awareness, reduce misinformation and address barriers that prevent individuals, families and communities from practicing healthy behaviors and seeking health services in a timely fashion. In collaboration with a wide range of local and national actors, including the Breakthrough-ACTION sister project, Breakthrough-RESEARCH will evaluate the impact, feasibility, and cost-efficiency of social and behavior change approaches, such as employing human-centered design to increase service uptake or initiating peer-led efforts to reach stigmatized populations.

“High-quality services are central to improved health, but often, even when a service exists, belief systems, social norms, and many other factors still keep people from using it,” said Julia Bunting, President, Population Council. “It is essential we bring as much rigor toward addressing the complexities of human behavior as we do to the services themselves and the Population Council is thrilled to lead the charge in this area through this new world-class research consortium.”

Through the creation of local learning collaboratives and global technical networks, the consortium will create consensus around the priority needs in social and behavior change research and support the integration of coordinated, user-centered, social and behavior change programs that address social and gender contexts to achieve demonstrable, sustained change at scale.

“There is a long history of social and behavior change research, but traditionally the evidence has been fragmented across geographies and health areas, and often fails to consider costs and the potential for scale-up,” said Laura Reichenbach, senior associate, Population Council and Project Director, Breakthrough-RESEARCH. “We are delighted USAID is supporting a concerted effort to integrate social behavior change efforts across health and development areas—from reproductive health to food security—and accelerate social and behavior change strategies that are backed by rigorous evidence.”

About the Population Council

The Population Council confronts critical health and development issues—from stopping the spread of HIV to improving reproductive health and ensuring that young people lead full and productive lives. Through biomedical, social science, and public health research in 50 countries, we work with our partners to deliver solutions that lead to more effective policies, programs, and technologies that improve lives around the world. Established in 1952 and headquartered in New York, the Council is a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization governed by an international board of trustees.


 USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential.