Université de Montréal receives US$11.7 million grant from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

December 16, 2003

This release is also available in French.

The Université de Montréal announced today a commitment of US$11.7 million (CAN$16 million) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to build capacity for population and health research and policy in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa. This program, lasting ten years and run in partnership with the Université de Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso (West Africa), will support reproductive health in the region by providing advanced training programs, developing a regional policy research leadership center, and establishing a network of specialists in the field.

According to Montréal professor Thomas LeGrand, who proposed the program to the foundation, "There is an urgent need to build the human capacity in the region to better understand the critical population and health issues and to design more effective policies and services that are essential for improving the welfare of African populations."

"The Gates Foundation is pleased to be part of this important effort to strengthen human and institutional leadership and research capacity in Francophone Africa," said Helene Gayle, director of the Gates Foundation's HIV, TB, and Reproductive Health program. "The efforts of the Université de Montréal and the Université de Ouagadougou will go a long way toward accelerating improved health for women and their families in this region."

Sub-Saharan Africa

Of the major regions of the world, sub-Saharan Africa faces the most daunting health and population problems. Experts estimate that nearly one in ten children born there die before their first birthday, and one in sixteen women die in pregnancy or labor over the course of their lives.

About 30 million people in the region are infected with HIV/AIDS (about 70% of all cases in the world), causing life expectancy to fall to below 40 years of age in some countries. Infectious diseases like malaria are rampant, and others like tuberculosis are increasing in prevalence.

Women average 5-6 children each and access to reproductive health services is limited, contributing to maternal and child health problems, high population growth and a rapid increase in the need for health care services in the region. Existing health and population policies and programs are poorly adapted to deal with these issues.

Program activities

In sub-Saharan Africa, population and health research and service programs are hindered by the scarcity of well-trained health professionals. The grant announced today will support the development of a new masters in public health program (DESS) emphasizing reproductive and child health and policy issues at the Université de Ouagadougou. In addition, a series of short-term training seminars will be taught to current experts in Africa, and PhD fellowships for African students will be funded at the Université de Montréal.

According to Professor Dieudonne Ouédraogo, the program director for the Université de Ouagadougou, "It is not enough just to train potential leaders; they must also be given a work environment that can guide and sustain them in their activities. And that requires strengthening key institutions and developing networks in the region."

The program will reinforce the quality and reach of the research and training activities of the University Center for Demographic Training and Research at the Université de Ouagadougou, allowing it to become a center of excellence for the region. Other leadership centers in the region will be strengthened through targeted fellowships and involving their experts in the program training and research activities. In addition, a network of African population and health specialists will be set up.

Program management

At the Université de Montréal, the program will be run by the Demography Department and the Unit of International Health, and at the Université de Ouagadougou, by the University Center for Demographic Teaching and Research. Professor Victor Piché is directing activities for Montreal, working with Professors Thomas LeGrand, Pierre Fournier, Lucien Albert, Anne Calvès and Richard Marcoux (of Laval University). Professor Dieudonne Ouédraogo is program director for Ouagadougou, assisted by Professor Banza Baya Banza and several other demography and public health faculty.
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is building upon the unprecedented opportunities of the 21st century to improve equity in global health and learning. Led by Bill Gates' father, William H. Gates, Sr., and Patty Stonesifer, the Seattle-based foundation has an endowment of approximately US$25 billion (CAN $35 billion).

About the Université de Montréal

Founded in 1878, Université de Montréal now has 13 faculties, and together with its two affiliated schools, the HEC Montréal and the École Polytechnique, it forms the leading centre of higher education and research in Quebec and the second largest university in Canada. It employs 2,300 professors and researchers, has an enrolment of more than 50,000, offers more than 550 programs at all levels, and awards approximately 2,500 masters and doctoral degrees each year.

University of Montreal

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