Philanthropy as R&D in Urban Women’s Health – both in the U.S. and abroad



Carol McLaughlin,
Research Director

We are often asked, “What is the sweet spot of philanthropy?” Donors can always fund proven approaches (e.g., nurse visitation programs, women’s groups for health education). However, our chapter in the recently released Women’s Health and the World’s Cities highlights the additional critical role philanthropy can play. Given its smaller size in relation to government financing, particularly in the global arena, philanthropy’s ability to be nimble and to take greater risks makes it a critical partner for testing and refining new approaches addressing challenges in urban women’s health.

In our chapter “Philanthropy and Its Impact on Urban Women’s Health,” we discuss how philanthropy was instrumental in funding the initial pilots and demonstration of two program models: Manoshi, in Dhaka Bangladesh and Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) in the U.S., both of which can now be scaled up through public financing. The chapter ends with a checklist of questions that donors and their advisors can use to understand if they are on the path to impact, using the work of Manoshi and NFP to illustrate how donors and nonprofits are successfully answering those questions.

With more than half of the global population now living in cities (a percentage projected to grow), this is a critical time to examine the impact of urbanization on women and to break down silos in order to unlock solutions that can improve wellbeing of women and their communities. Ours is just one of a dozen perspectives on this important issue, and we are thrilled that our perspective—and the role of philanthropists—can sit alongside the thinking of scholars like Julio Frenk and policy analysts like Ruth Levine. Given the critical role that women play in households, the workplace, and societies around the world, more effective philanthropy in this arena promises not only to improve the lives of these women and their families, but also of the broader global community.

See highlighted tweets, tagged #healthyurbanwomen, from our recent book event, co-hosted by the Penn Nursing School and Penn Institute for Urban Research, to continue the discussion.