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UC San Diego Awarded $38 Million USAID Grant to Improve Global Health Equity

The project, dubbed 'Agency for All,' is the largest grant of its type to the university and will fund an international network to promote and sustain improved health and agency in low- and middle-income countries


  • Scott LaFee

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  • Scott LaFee

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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has funded a $38 million, five-year project led by the Center on Gender Equity and Health (GEH) at University of California San Diego School of Medicine and Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science. The project is an international, multi-institutional effort to better understand and promote agency for individuals, communities and local organizations in low- and middle-income countries.

The award is the largest ever given to UC San Diego by USAID, a 61-year-old federal program created by President John F. Kennedy to advance humanitarian efforts, reduce poverty and encourage sustained economic and social development throughout the world. 

“This is a spectacular moment,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. “With this award, UC San Diego can lead in using research to address important social and health issues that result in beneficial change and new policies that make the world a better place.”

“Agency for All” is intended to develop and foster social and behavioral research resulting in a better understanding of how to promote the voices of local people within their own communities and within health and development programming.

It addresses multiple dimensions of health and well-being, including maternal and child health, infectious disease, HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health. The program will work with diverse populations across the globe, with a focus on Africa and South Asia.

GEH will coordinate the consortium of global, regional and local leaders to conduct research and implement solutions, informed by local priorities and agendas, said Rebecka Lundgren, PhD, an applied anthropologist and associate professor of infectious diseases and global public health, who will serve as project director. Lundgren is supported by deputy director and technical lead for research Holly Shakya, PhD, associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health, and technical lead for measurement Lotus McDougal, PhD, an associate project scientist at GEH.

“‘Agency for All’ will look at the complex questions of ‘agency,’ and what that means for different people, organizations and systems around the world, as well as for our own consortium partners,” said Lundgren. “We are honored to bring together a global consortium of world class researchers and implementers to discover what works to convert intention into action within social and behavior change programs and make it work for real people.”

The initiative will concentrate on three geographical areas or hubs in East Africa, West Africa and South Asia, collaborating with specific organizations and networks in those regions. These partners include the Centre for Catalyzing Change (India), Evidence for Sustainable Human Development Systems in Africa (Cameroon), Makerere University (Uganda), Matchboxology (South Africa), Sambodhi (India), Shujaaz, Inc. (Kenya), University of Witwatersrand (South Africa), CORE Group, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Promundo-US, Save the Children and Viamo.

“These locally-led partnerships are critical,” said Paul Bukuluki, PhD, director of research for Agency for All and an associate professor at Makerere University. “We hope to develop context-specific mechanisms for measuring agency, and more effectively evaluate the approaches that help us improve the quality of life of women and men at the margins of society.”

About the Center on Gender Equity and Health

The GEH conducts multidisciplinary research to understand and eliminate gender inequities, specifically in the areas of child marriage, unpaid labor, gender-based violence and gender social norms. It is directed by Anita Raj, PhD, a professor in the departments of Medicine and Education Studies and Tata Chancellor Professor of Society and Health.

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