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Population Services International

Women in the developing world who want contraception, but can’t access it, face dire consequences. They run high risks of complications during pregnancy, even death. They struggle to financially care for their families. They drop out of school and don’t continue their education.

Population Services International (PSI) helps women live healthier lives and plan the families they desire. For almost 50 years, they have been committed to using measurement and evaluation to identify and develop the most impactful, innovative and cost-effective solutions to some of the most challenging health issues in global development. PSI's primary focus is on modern family planning and contraception, but they also work in the areas of HIV, malaria, water, sanitation and hygiene, and non-communicable diseases (including diabetes, hypertension and cervical cancer).

PSI runs programs in more than 50 countries across the world in Latin America, Asia and Africa. With its global network of 8,900 local experts, PSI estimates that in 2016 it added 38.1 million years of healthy lives with its products and services.

The Problem

Lack of access to family planning. 214 million women in the developing world want contraception but can’t access or afford it. Without the ability to decide when to have a child, there is little opportunity for them to break the cycle of extreme poverty for their families. Those that do have access often haven’t been educated about the range of health care and family planning options available to them and their families, or face barriers to access like religion, social and cultural norms.

The Solution

A total market view. PSI works in partnership with local governments, the private sector and local organizations to create sustainable solutions. They build local capacity and strengthen the capability of local healthcare markets to solve public health problems. 95% of PSI employees work in their home countries.

PSI’s market-based approach allows them to evaluate where to best adds value, e.g. providing a health service directly to women and their families, training private or public health workers, distributing health products for free or selling them at affordable prices, or developing behavior change communication campaigns to increase access to and knowledge of life-saving health products and services.

How PSI is different from other charities

PSI believes that extreme poverty can be eradicated in our lifetime only by breaking the traditional models of global development. PSI develops and tests breakthrough concepts with potential to work across many settings to make it easier for people in the developing world to lead healthy lives.

PSI maximizes impact by targeting health care issues that are cost-effective to treat and yet often remain overlooked in the developing world. In 2016 alone, PSI provided services through its network of health care franchises that added more than 38 million years of healthy life, prevented more than 4 million unintended pregnancies and 11,000 maternal deaths and averted 261,000 new cases of HIV and 240,000 deaths due to malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

Why PSI is effective

Global health care networks

PSI oversees 10,000 health care franchisees within 26 franchise networks across 25 countries. These franchises provide health services and products to 10 million people each year, reducing strain on overburdened national health systems, and creating economic opportunities for local communities.

Designed for scale

In 2016, PSI’s spectrum of accomplishments included: inserting more than 1 million long-acting reversible contraceptives (including implants and IUDs); distributing almost 43 million insecticide-treated bed nets, 2.4 million diarrhea treatment kits, and close to 1 billion male and female condoms to prevent against HIV infection, other sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancy; providing over 2 million HIV/STI testing and counseling sessions; and performing 283,000 voluntary adult medical male circumcisions to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Income-based services

PSI operates various pay scales for their health care services and products, providing care at commercial, subsidized, and free rates. Income level determines how much individuals, families, and communities pay for services--which means that all clients have access to affordable health care, regardless of income.

Innovative health campaigns

PSI uses television, radio, print, social media, and one-on-one outreach to educate and promote adoption of healthy behaviors. They work in partnership with local health care workers to leverage existing infrastructures and broaden their impact. This means that individuals learn about health options and services from health care workers who best understand their own communities.

Careful monitoring

PSI is committed to evaluating its impact in much the same way that for-profit enterprises measure their profits. The organization develops sophisticated health models to inform refinement of its strategy and to ensure that programs are targeted, economical and effective.

Cost-effective

Though not all of PSI's work can be measured through the cost per DALY averted, for those that can, the net cost is $19.48 per year of healthy life per person, or $38.96 for a mother and child.

High Impact

PSI’s accountability and sustainability

PSI, a recommended charity of The Life You Can Save, is committed to transparency, making its annual reports public and posting financial statements on its website.

PSI partners with governments and major international organizations and foundations including the US Agency for International Development (USAID), United Kingdom Department for International Affairs (DFID), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It also has strategic corporate partners in nearly 30 countries, including Alere, Unilever, and Eli Lilly and Company. PSI has provided quality and affordable health care services for almost 50 years, and oversees 8,900 staff around the world. Roughly 95 percent of PSI staff work in their home countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does PSI distribute its products and services?

PSI partners with local governments, ministries of health, and local organizations to create health solutions. In addition to establishing and overseeing local health care franchises, PSI also offers training and support to private-sector clinics, which is where most people from resource-poor communities seek health services.

Are PSI’s interventions evidence-backed?

PSI helps implement and scale proven cost-effective interventions, in addition to investing in promising pilot programs. For example, PSI offers voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) following studies demonstrating that VMMC can reduce female-to-male HIV transmission by up to 60 percent. Since 2007, PSI estimates that its VMMC programs have averted more than a quarter million cases of HIV transmission.

Why does The Life You Can Save recommend Population Services International?

PSI has been one of our recommended charities since before our current charity selection process was adopted in November 2016. Our recommendation of PSI dates back to when our founder, Peter Singer, was writing his book The Life You Can Save. As discussed in the book, some people believe that population growth is a major factor in poverty and environmental destruction. Peter therefore wanted to include a family planning organization on the list, and a friend who had done an evaluation of PSI’s work in India thought it the best of the organizations working in this area. Subsequently, we’ve continued to hear positive things about PSI’s efficacy from people knowledgeable in this space.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

PSI has 501(c)(3) status, and donations are tax-deductible in the US; however it does not have charitable solicitation registration in Hawaii, Utah, or West Virginia.

More Information

Image credits
Banner: Jake Lyell
Photo #1: Benjamin Schilling -- Burundi
Photo #2 : Sala Lewis--Tanzania
Photo #3: Benjamin Schilling -- Burundi
Photo #4: Manprit Shergill-- India

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